Weird Tales/Volume 31/Issue 3/The Eyrie
The enthusiastic reception of Seabury Quinn's story, Roads, in our January issue, has encouraged us to print further off-the-trail stories from time to time in this magazine. This story was a reverent tale of the Crucifixion, a hetaera from the house of Mary of Magdala, and Santa Claus. Though there were a few dissident voices of those who thought the Santa Claus element childish, the chorus of praise made the vote overwhelming in its favor.
Suited to a T
William F. Zuckert, Jr., of Washington, D. C, writes: "After ten years as a silent reader of WT, I take this opportunity to drop a line to the Eyrie. As a whole, I can find little or no criticism against our magazine, because personally it suits me to a T. Besides, on the very rare occasions when I do have an infinitesimal gripe, I say nothing because I realize that there must have been plenty of readers who did enjoy the piece; who am I to yelp? I like the high literary quality of the tales, with that subtle horror that sort of sneaks up on one. Now for a couple of orchids to the authors. In the December issue, I particularly enjoyed The Sea-Witch by Nictzin Dyalhis. In my humble estimation, this yarn constitutes one of the smoothest bits that I've ever read. It didn't hold a dull moment nor an arid paragraph from beginning to end. This letter would be incomplete without a mention of my favorite author and character. I refer, of course, to Seabury Quinn with his inimitable Jules de Grandin—a grand pair whose adventures I hope to be able to follow as long as these old eyes can see the printed page. Flames of Vengeance in the December issue was grand, but when the January issue came out with Roads, I got a real sock! What a story! I was almost on the last page before it dawned on me just who Claudius really was! That idea was a real inspiration, and you gave it to us at exactly the proper time of year. Keep up the good work, Mr. Quinn, and I can personally guarantee you at least one family of very avid readers. I could go on for pages extolling the virtues of the various authors, but that isn't very practical, because perhaps you would like to squeeze in a letter from some other reader. So I close now with a big cheer for Virgil Finlay. And thanks for listening."
The Light Was Green
Richard F. Behm writes from Los Angeles: "Thank you for John Speer's story, The Light Was Green. A long time has passed since I have read any fiction as unusual and fascinating as the stories written by Mr. Speer. It is very evident he does not write until he is definitely sure of the ground from which his inspiration for his story sprung."
A Letter from Miss Hemken
Gertrude Hemken writes from Chicago: "Roads! This is by far the loveliest Christmas story I have ever read. Quinn couples the Teutonic legends of the Nativity so beautifully. But one thing wonders me—Klaus, after a tricennium, still had the fair hair and beard; yet the Santa Claus we know is a white-haired, white-bearded old fellow. 'Course after two thousand years most anyone would grow gray, but—never mind. Somehow or other I was a mite disappointed in Dorothy Quick this time. Her witch was somehow so very like another enchantress in a w.-k, story by an equally w.-k. author. I really don't care for these supple sirens and their frightening powers. Give me a couple of rip-snorters like Conan and North-west Smith—brave lassies like Jirel of Joiry. Finlay's full page is much more to my taste this time. The spires and skyline look so other worldish. Well, guess I'll wait for another installment of The Hairy Ones Shall Dance before I comment—somehow that Devil's Croft is enticing. Raggh—woof—grrr—I like so very much this Toean Matjan, but I cannot pronounce such words satisfactorily. And so I am riled, in spire of a cat tale—and such a pretty white cat? I have often wondered if a tiger would make a good pet. And so the verrüchter Austrian is now a block of ice in the black vastnesses of the void—and thus ends his The Voyage of the Neutralia. I found the closing installment rather flat, except for the Venusian centipedes and volcano. Doctor Keller turned out a nice one with his Valley of Bones—such, I believe, is entirely possible in this strange land of Africa. I was pleased to see your reprint of Ethan Brand—I have read it so many times along with others of Hawthorne's talcs."
Both Lusty and Devout
Manly Wade Wellman writes from New York City: "Let me vote for Quinn's Roads as the most impressive thing in the January WT. It gives me to think thus: does not the world of fantasy hold its good powers as well as evil, its saints and angels as well as its fiends and devils? Roads was both lusty and devout, as a good Christmas tale should be."
Robert A. Madle writes from Philadelphia: "Thanks exceedingly for inaugurating the new frontispiece department. Both picturizations which have appeared have been supreme. Virgil Finlay is unquestionably the modern master of weird art, as H. P. Lovecraft was the unquestioned master of weird fiction. Continue this department, and have Finlay illustrate the entire interior of the magazine hereafter. His covers are also superb, but do not neglect Brundage entirely. She is one of the best artists of the decade."
N. J. O'Neail writes from Toronto his selection of the fifteen best stones in Weird Tales for 1937, and comments: "You may notice that five on my list—one third of the total—are reprints; probably not surprizing, since the reprints represent, in theory, and usually in practise, the cream of bygone issues. I shouldn't be surprized if a demand soon arose for a re-reprint section, in which some of the reprints of eight and nine years ago might reappear once more.... You began reprinting from back numbers in 1928, when WT was only five years old. Now it has rounded out its fifteenth year; and it might be reasoned that a story which was worth reprinting once, five years after its first publication, might merit another such honor ten years later."
Richard Kraft, of Allenhurst, New Jersey, writes: "To my mind the most overrated story you have ever published was Quest of the Starstone. It was simply a cheap thriller and did not compare with Paul Ernst's Dread Summons or Rex Ernest's The Inn. In the December issue Edmond Hamilton again writes a winner: Child of Atlantis. Hamilton is the best in the business and I enjoy his work immensely. The Sea-Witch was terrible—I can't see what Weird Tales readers will find in it, as it was slow and tiresome, nothing like that swell story of Mary Counselman's in that issue, The Black Stone Statue."
Virgil Finlay's Drawings
Doctor Karl K. Webber writes from Flora, Illinois: "This is the first time I have written you, although I have been an avid reader of Weird Tales for about six years. In the December 1937 issue, The Sea-Witch is 'tops,' with Flames of Vengeance a close second, and Child of Atlantis hot on the latter's heels. One thing must be kept in your publication and that is Virgil Finlay's drawing. I'm a little bit of an artist myself and I recognize a masterful touch when I see it. No one can approach his subtle mastery of pen and ink. Orchids to Virgil!"
A Million Congratulations
Julius Hopkins writes ftom Washington, D. C: "Roads is one of the most high-class stories that WT has ever printed. Throughout, the language is elevating, and not the usual, pulpy kind prevalent in a great many tales written today. I truly believe that any magazine would have been glad to have this story between its covers. WT should be mighty proud to have been privileged to print it. A million congratulations to you, Mr. Quinn, for a really outstanding story."
M. W. Schauffler, of Larchmont, New York, writes: "The Howard and Quinn stories have been what I have bought the magazine for, and I have been buying it for eight years. One other thing which makes your magazine a pleasure is that almost always the mythology and other background data are accurate. So please speak to Nictzin Dyalhis, if you don't mind, and ask him to check a little more carefully. I don't know when I have liked a story better than The Sea-Witch. But the moment when his Witch and his hero both agreed that Ran was a god, not a goddess, wrecked the illusion of factuality for me to the end of the story. And there were two other minor slips: No viking was ever named Gudrun any more than he was named Eliza, and for the same reason—it is a woman's name. Neither was Comnenus ever spelled with two n's—though that's a small matter. As for the viking's refrain to the rowing-song, he probably knows more than I do about that—I am not an authority on Norse legends. But I have a feeling that it isn't entirely, or at least typically, a sea refrain."
Bernard Austin Dwyer writes from West Shokan, New York: "My first choice of stories in die January issue is Roads by Seabury Quinn. This is truly Quinn's masterpiece; I have never seen anything even remotely so good by him. In my opinion, it far overtops even The Phantom Farmhouse. Apart from the story itself, which is delightful and wonderful—the fetching together of such ordinarily widely separated elements as Christ's crucifixion, a blond heroic warrior from the North, a harlot from the house of Magdalene, the Eastern and Western dynasties, and the Middle Ages, the little carved sleighs, the dwarf faery, smiths of the mountains, and the legend of Santa Claus—the style itself is very beautiful. I love especially the last few paragraphs with their flavor of the iron and heroic North, the Valhalla-like feast; how Klaus laid aside his arms, and the final piercing and beautiful paragraph. But I love everything—the story and the style, from beginning to end.... This story will go down as one of the very best, by any author, ever to be published in Weird Tales. It is a masterpiece, fit to rank with Howard's Kings of the Night or Lovecraft's Whisperer in Darkness. I feel impelled to thank Mr. Quinn heartily for giving me the opportunity to read so satisfactory, wonderfully imaginative and beautiful a story. That style is something to dream about. Next, I will mention a very short poem—Lost Dream, dedicated to our departed master Lovecraft, by Emil Petaja. May I express my appreciation of how that little poem coincides with one's impressions of the works of Lovecraft? 'One fumbles in his scarlet cloak; I see his slender fingers move—he turns a key..." a silver key, of course. Congratulations to Mr. Petaja for his splendid little poem. May we hope for more? My next favorite story is Toean Matjan, by Vennecte Herron—a very good story, well tied together, and beautiful style. It is exquisitely written. I don't know when I have read a more entertaining story, written in better style. In fact, I like the style quite as well as that of Roads, only that it is of course shorter. I am acute sure that I should not care to court that lady. I like The Witch's Mark, and The Hairy Ones Shall Dance. In the latter, it is already rather obvious that the wolfish materialization came from Doctor Zoberg—vide his thick, sinewy wrists! It is right entertaining. Let me, too, commend most warmly The Inn, in a recent issue. Splendid atmosphere."
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Compliment and Complaint
Wilfred Wright writes from Toronto: "During the last fifteen years that I have been a consistent reader of WT I have only written twice to the Eyrie, submitting my comments. But your January issue compels me to write for the rhird time, to express a compliment and a complaint. First the compliment. Roads, by Seabury Quinn, stands out as the most beautiful piece of fantasy ever published in any magazine. From early in the story the outcome was obvious, yet at no time did it detract from the beauty or interest of the compelling and reverent treatment of a sacred theme. Mr. Quinn is indeed to be congratulated upon his ability, and I wish to extend to him my personal thanks for enriching my Christmas by his magnificent story. Now for the complaint—or perhaps I should say 'question.' The story Toean Matjan by Vennette Herron—while I appreciate it as a very splendid weird tale, it should have been entered as a reprint, as I read the same story in the magazine section of the Toronto Star Weekly three or four months ago. With the exception of the reprint story, I always had the impression that all stories published in Weird Tales were original, and I would like to be informed regarding the editorial policy in this matter. As for my voting for the best stories in the current issue, it is on this occasion impossible, for with all appreciation for the other tales in this issue, Seabury Quinn's Roads defies comparison." [Toean Matjan was sold to us as a new story which had seen publication in England only. We did not know that it had been printed in Canada. Like many other publications, Weird Tales occasionally buys outstanding stories that have already been printed in the British Isles, but we do not knowingly use stories that have been published in North America.—The Editor.]
J. Vernon Shea, Jr., writes from Pittsburgh: "I wish Seabury Quinn hadn't written Roads, for that tale for children has no place in WT. It made me squirm. Of the stories in the January issue, I prefer Toean Matjan, a beautifully written version of a familiar theme. Miss Herron is a highly promising newcomer. Edmond Hamilton had a novel idea in The House of Living Music, but ruined it by his formula handling. The Witch's Mark marks considerable of an advancement for Dorothy Quick, but I for one am pretty fed-up with witch-women, especially when they go through their all-too-familiar routines. I wish you would caution your authors against topical subjects as applied to weird tales. They have not the immediacy the authors imagine them to have, but intrude unpleasantly in a non-realistic field. Thus, the attempted lynching in The Hairy Ones Shall Dance, which seems to be taken from the motion picture Fury, seemed wildly incongruous in WT. Don't misunderstand me: I am very fond of realism in a realistic story, but hardly consider much realism fitting for WT."
A New Reader
Margaret H. Gray writes from Steubenville, Ohio: "Greetings from a comparatively new member of your circle of Weird Tales readers, I have been reading your magazine for only one short year, much to my chagrin. I have just completed the January edition, and I say that there are entirely too many days to wait until February. The Witch's Mark was by far the best in this issue. Perhaps I am prejudiced, as I am brimful of Irish and Scottish folklore, but the translating of Deidre and Shamus into modern life, is in my eyes, a masterpiece. Some more stories just like it, please, Dorothy Quick! (By the way, is she Irish?) Virgil Finlay's illustrations are still 'splendiferous' (that's my own invention!) and M. Brundage's cover picture is grand. Toean Matjan, by Vennette Herron, rates second in my list. I love stories like this. May we have some more, if you please? I am collecting all of those illustration passages from poetry so that I can frame them. Couldn't you make them in color? I think I have asked too many questions already. Good luck, WT, and may the sun never set on your splendid magazine."
A Posing Tiger
Michael Liene writes from Hazleton, Pennsylvania: "Toean Matjan, by Vennette Herron, was a strange little tale, beautifully written. The tiger in the illustration looks suspiciously like the one used to advertise Listerine mouth wash, or some such. Or did this tiger take up posing for advertisements, in the spare time he had, aside from jealously guarding our heroine of the story? Were it not for Quinn's beautifully told story, Roads, I would have given Toean Matjan first place in the January issue—the story, I mean, not the tiger.... Gans T. Field's The Hairy Ones Shall Dance serial has started out quite thrillingly. It leaves the reader all prepared for startling events, which will either make or ruin the story. But if the first installment is any indication of shudders, I just took my racoon coat out of storage."
He Wants a Sequel
Alvin V. Pershing writes from Anderson, Indiana: "Would it be proper to ask for a sequel to The Sea-Witch? That story was a tremendous knock-out, amazing and weird. It was one of the best stories I have ever read. Virgil's black-and-white frontispiece was a real addition to the magazine."
Quinn and Howard
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J. Mackay Tait writes from Bridgetown, Nova Scotia: "In my humble opinion, the most thoroughly enjoyable stories that appear in WT are those by such writers as Seabury Quinn and Robert E. Howard (how I miss that boy!), in which there is a little humanity, a little humor, a little happiness. Poe's works are abnormal, the product (admittedly so) of a diseased mind. They aren't true to life. They are literary lunacy, analogous in art to the works of Dali, or in sculpture to those of Epstein. There is never any situation, no matter how desperate, in which all hope and humor are entirely absent. I served four years with the Canadian infantry during the war ... and although we lived in terror a great deal of the time—particularly I—I never once found myself in a position where it was all fear and horror. In this month's WT there is a story by Nictzin Dyalhis, The Sea-Witch, that I believe to be one of the best ever to appear in our magazine. And my opinion is not influenced by the really splendid cover design by Virgil Finlay—a vast improvement over some of the misproportioned females who have displayed their impossible charms on covers of the past, even if the girl has misplaced her navel. The story deals with the occult, it has horror, it has suspense; but it also has love, tenderness, humor (not funniness), and a delightfully unexpected happy ending.... Another criticism (I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb) I have to make of a great many of your stories, although not only of the Poe style, is directed at the obviously labored attempts at maintaining an atmosphere of gloom and impending evil throughout the narrative. Why should this be necessary? Because a man walking along a lonely country road in a rainstorm is to encounter, half a mile farther on, a grisly werewolf is no reason, that I can see, for the limbs of the trees to appear like skeleton arms reaching out for him, or for the raindrops to fall with the sound of hissing snakes bent upon his destruction, or for the wind to howl at him with the voices of a thousand haunted spirits. Unless he is mentally abnormal, neurotic or a confirmed and industrious disciple of Bacchus, a country road would be a country road and nothing more. It may be the tradition to write weird stories in that way, but it is illogical nevertheless. Horror rarely sets the stage before descending upon us. I wish it did! When it strikes, it strikes suddenly, without warning. From happiness we are switched to misery and back again almost without knowing how it all happened. The trouble with striving constantly for this kind of atmosphere is that it defeats its own purpose. You are plunged into gloom with the story's first paragraph and are mentally prepared for anything that may happen. When I bought a volume of Poe's works some years ago, I naturally waded through those dealing in horror first. 'Waded' is the mot juste. By the time I had read three of them, I was so saturated with their atmosphere that they had lost all value as shockers. I have never finished the volume and I never will. (This is sacrilege but I can't help it.) People are constantly borrowing my books—sometimes they return them—but I have never had any one of them borrow the volume of Poe although it still retains its attractive red-and-black cover. I don't believe people like that kind of literature. They like horror, mystery, even cruelty; but they like it dished up palatably. You can consign this to the editorial waste-basket if you like, but it is my sincere conviction that more stories of the Seabury Quinn type would sell more copies of WT."
T. O. Mabbott writes from New York City: "My votes this month are for Roads, which has the truth of a legend about it, though curiously enough for Seabury Quinn, it struck me as deserving a cut or two to make the thing a little more compact; second: Valley of Bones—simple and wholly credible while being read, and, third, Toean Matjan, where I wished for a stronger suggestion the tiger was sometimes a man, too."
James Whiting Saunders writes from Alexandria, Virginia: "In the January issue the best story is Ethan Brand. It is an almost timeless allegory, of course. Thank you for printing an American classic."
Paul L. McCleave writes from St. Petersburg, Florida: "The Sea-Witch was truly the 'tops' in the December Weird Tales. Nictzin Dyalhis (how'd he ever get that name, anyway?) must have a thorough knowledge of the old Norse mythology."
Seymour Kapetansky writes from Detroit: "Lovecraft's Hypnos is one of the late master's obscure-weird pieces. A grand fictional yarn. I think that the reprint should contain a Lovecraft as often as possible, and ditto the early Robert E. Howards. These men were the best weird writers; their work should appear often. That will be their best memorial."
Harold F. Keating writes from Quincy, Massachusetts: "The Black Stone Statue by Mary Counselman is gorgeous. Most of her stories are excellent; but this was the best yet."
Howard Brenton MacDonald writes from Yonkers, New York: "The Sea-Witch was an exceptionally fine story. I am glad to see some author making use of the vast treasury of Norse mythology. Let's have more."
H. W. Marian writes from Union City, Tennessee: "In the December number Virgil Finlay is superb. Words fail me, and I can only attempt to express my appreciation for this new feature. These first two I have already framed and they occupy a position of honor in my room."
Andrew Galet writes from New York City: "I now have a double incentive for buying WT, but, please have Virgil Finlay's full-page drawing inside the back cover of your magazine. Not only will his illustrations be more fully appreciated but one could always tear the cover off and have the drawings framed."
Orin S. McFarland writes from Washington D. C.: "I've read your magazine for the last six years and know there is nothing like it. Keep up the good work. There are a few stories that don't quite click, but so few that all the good ones outshine, by far, any defect that your magazine may otherwise possess."
Flo M. Post writes from Guthrie, Oklahoma: "Tales of robots with human minds are just gibberish—and not weird gibberish either—whether they inhabit Mars, Venus, the Moon, or an Atlantis."
The Most Popular Story
Readers, it will help us to keep this magazine just as you like it to be, if you will let us know which stories you like best, and also which ones you dislike. In the January issue, as shown by your votes and letters, Seabury Quinn's strange tale about Santa Claus easily won first place. Vennette Herron's story about the were-tiger came next.