Farnsworth Wright

Farnsworth Wright (July 29, 1888 – June 12, 1940) was the editor of the pulp magazine Weird Tales during the magazine's heyday, editing 179 issues from November 1924-March 1940. Jack Williamson called Wright "the first great fantasy editor".[1]

Farnsworth Wright
BornJuly 29, 1888
Santa Barbara, California, United States
DiedJune 12, 1940 (aged 51)
Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States
OccupationMagazine editor
LanguageEnglish
NationalityAmerican
CitizenshipUnited States
GenresFantasy, pulp fiction

Life and career

Early life and Army service

Wright was born in California, and educated at the University of Nevada and the University of Washington.[2] A Washington journalism student, he spent three years on the staff of the University of Washington Daily, ending as managing editor. He acted as managing editor of The Seattle Star on April 25, 1914 when twenty journalism students were handed responsibility for the paper for a day.[3] An honors student, he graduated with a B.A. in Journalism in 1914. At the university, he was active in clubs, including serving as president of the Social Democratic Club.

Wright experienced several personal tragedies in his early life of which he would never speak.[4] For example, on July 27, 1913, while bathing in the ocean off Westport, Washington, Wright and his University of Washington roommate, John P. Rauen, were caught in eddying currents. Ironically, Rauen, a "good swimmer," drowned while Wright, who couldn't swim, was rescued "after great difficulties."[5]

His first job was as a reporter with the Seattle Sun, but he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1917 and served in the infantry in World War I.[6] Wright "served a year as interpreter with the American army."[7] In one reference, his duty was described as "interpreter in the town major's office in Roeze."[8]

Wright's mother taught music and inspired in him his zeal for the classics and for art. For a number of years, he wrote music criticism for Musical America. His music criticism overlapped his overseas duty and, at least into 1928, his editorship of Weird Tales. Wright loved poetry and later encouraged its appearance in Weird Tales.

Weird Tales, The Moon Terror and Oriental Stories/Magic Carpet Magazine

Wright was working as a music critic for the Chicago Herald and Examiner when he began his association with Weird Tales, founded in 1923.[9] At first serving as chief manuscript reader,[10] he replaced founding editor Edwin Baird in 1924 when the latter was fired by publisher J. C. Henneberger.[11]

During Wright's editorship of Weird Tales, which lasted until 1940, the magazine regularly published the notable authors H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. Yet Wright had a strained relationship with all three writers, rejecting major works by them — such as Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness and The Shadow Over Innsmouth,[12] Howard's "The Frost Giant's Daughter,"[13] and Smith's "The Seven Geases" (which Wright dismissed as just "one geas after another").[14] He could be both discouraging and encouraging with equal lack of logic. His preference for shorter fiction particularly led him to discourage Lovecraft's, whose best works emerged at longer lengths during the early 1930s. Nevertheless, as Mike Ashley has put it, "Wright developed WT from a relatively routine horror pulp magazine to create what has become a legend." [6]

Wright's wide tastes allowed for an extravagance of fiction, from the Sword and Sorcery of Robert E. Howard, the cosmic fiction of Lovecraft, the occult detective stories of Seabury Quinn, the chinoiseries of E. Hoffman Price and Frank Owen, the terror tales of Paul Ernst and the space operas and pandimensional adventures of Edmond Hamilton and Nictzin Dyalhis.

Wright also anonymously edited an anthology of WT stories, The Moon Terror (1927), as a bonus for subscribers. The contents were The Moon Terror (full-length novel by A.G. Birch); Ooze by Anthony M. Rud; Penelope by Vincent Starrett and Wright's own "An Adventure in the Fourth Dimension", described as "an uproarious skit on the four-dimensional theories of the mathematicians, and interplanetary stories in general." However, the anthology's contents (unfortunately representative of the worst of magazine's early years) meant the book took years to sell out; for many years during the 1930s Weird Tales carried advertisements for the book at the "reduced price of only fifty cents." Wright also edited a short-lived companion magazine, Oriental Stories (later renamed Magic Carpet Magazine) which lasted from 1930 to 1934.[15]

Wright (nicknamed "Plato" by his writers) was also noteworthy for starting the commercial careers of three important fantasy artists: Margaret Brundage, Virgil Finlay, and Hannes Bok. Each of the three made their first sale to, and had their work first appear in, Weird Tales. Wright was close friends with writers who submitted to the magazine such E. Hoffman Price (who often helped read the slushpile submissions) and Otis Adelbert Kline.[16]

E.F. Bleiler describes Wright as "an excellent editor who recognized quality work" in his book The Guide to Supernatural Fiction. [17]

Wright also published half a dozen pieces of his own fiction, but his stories are considered unmemorable. His poetry (all published as by "Francis Hard", a pseudonym also used on several of the stories)[1] is considered more delicate, but he limited its appearance. (Most of the poems appeared in the earliest years of Weird Tales).[6]

Weird Tales author Robert Bloch describes Wright as "a tall thin man with a small, thin voice. The latter, together with a persistent palsy, was probably due to the effects of Parkinson's disease, an affliction which had plagued him since wartime military service. An authority on Shakespeare and a former music critic, this soft-spoken, balding, prematurely aged man seemed miscast as editor of a publication featuring bimbos uncovered on its covers and horrors concealed within its pages." [18]

Later life and death

Farnsworth Wright married Marjorie J. Zinkie (September 1, 1893, Aurora, IL - April 9, 1974, Bellevue, WA) in about 1929. She was a fellow University of Washington graduate and had worked as a librarian in various locales. They had one child, Robert Farnsworth Wright (April 21, 1930, Chicago – March 1, 1993, Bellevue, WA).

Wright had developed Parkinson's disease in 1921; by 1930, he was unable to sign his own letters. He attempted to launch Wright's Shakespeare Library in 1925 with a pulp-format edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Despite the illustrations by Virgil Finlay, the book flopped.[6]

Wright's failing health forced him to resign as editor during 1940, and he died later that year.[9] A fine tribute to him by Seabury Quinn ran in the letters column of the November 1940 issue of Weird Tales. He was succeeded as editor of Weird Tales by Dorothy McIlwraith (who also edited Short Stories magazine).

Notable relatives

Wright's nephew, David Wright O'Brien (1918-1944), was killed during World War II after a brief but prolific period as a contributor to the Ziff-Davis pulp magazines, including Fantastic Adventures, to which he contributed many humorous fantasies. .[6]

Wright's niece was the Hollywood actress Paula Raymond.[19]

Notes

  1. ^ Williamson, in Gombert, (p. ix).
  2. ^ Weinberg, pg. 4.
  3. ^ "Army of Journalists Rout Editorial Staff," The Seattle Star, April 25, 1914, p. 1.
  4. ^ John Locke, "Farnsworth Wright and the Art of the Nightmare" in The Thing's Incredible! The Secret Origins of Weird Tales (Off-Trail Publications, 2018).
  5. ^ "Fatal Bathing at Westport," Aberdeen Herald (Aberdeen, Washington), July 29, 1913, p. 5.
  6. ^ a b c d e Mike Ashley, "Farnsworth Wright" in John Clute and John Grant, eds, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. London: Orbit, 1997, p. 1037
  7. ^ The Oregon Daily Journal, October 5, 1919, p. 38.
  8. ^ "Reno Girl Tells of Happy Life in France," Reno Gazette-Journal, April 30, 1919, p. 10.
  9. ^ a b Joshi and Schultz, p. 304.
  10. ^ "The Authors", Weird Tales: The Unique Magazine
  11. ^ Carter, pp. 37, 46.
  12. ^ Joshi and Schultz, p. 305.
  13. ^ Hoffman and Cerasini, pp. 93-94.
  14. ^ Murray, p. 13.
  15. ^ Encyclopedia of Fantasy, p. 1037. See also Weinberg, p. 5.
  16. ^ E. Hoffman Price, "Farnsworth Wright 1888-1940"in price, Book of the Dead: Friends of Yesteryear: Fictioneers and Others Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 20001, p. 15
  17. ^ Bleiler, p.369.
  18. ^ Robert Bloch. Once Around the Bloch: An Unauthorised Autobiography NY: Tor Books, 1993, p. 78
  19. ^ Parla & Mitchell, p. 198.

References

  • Mike Ashley, "Wright, Farnsworth" in: Encyclopedia of Fantasy, John Clute and John Grant, eds., New York, St. Martin's Press, 1997.
  • E. F. Bleiler, The Guide to Supernatural Fiction, Kent State University Press, 1983.
  • Lin Carter, Lovecraft: A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos, New York, Ballatine, 1972.
  • Richard W. Gombert, World Wrecker: An Annotated Bibliography of Edmond Hamilton. Wildside Press LLC, 2009, ISBN 1434457265,
  • Charles Hoffman and Marc A. Cerasini, "The Strange Case of Robert Ervin Howard", in: The Horror of It All, Robert M. Price, ed., Mercer island, WA, Starmount House, 1990.
  • John Locke, "Farnsworth Wright and the Art of the Nightmare" in The Thing's Incredible! The Secret Origins of Weird Tales. Elkhorn, CA: Off-Trail Publications, 2018, ISBN 1935031252.
  • Paul Parla and Charles P. Mitchell, Screen Sirens Scream!: Interviews with 20 Actresses from Science Fiction, Horror, Film Noir and Mystery Movies, 1930s to 1960s. McFarland, 2009, ISBN 0786445874.
  • S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 2001.
  • Clark Ashton Smith, The Book of Hyperborea, Will Murray, ed., West Warwick, RI, Necronomicon press, 1996.
  • Robert Weinberg, The Weird Tales Story, West Linn, OR, FAX Collectors' Editions, 1977.

Further reading

  • E. Hoffman Price, "Farnsworth Wright", Ghost (July 1944); rpt. Anubis No 3 (1968); rpt Etchings and Odysseys No 3 (1983); in Price's The Book of the Dead (Sauk City WI: Arkham House, 2001).
  • Seabury Quinn, "Farnsworth Wright" (letter), in Weird Tales (Nov 1940).

External links

At the Mountains of Madness

At the Mountains of Madness is a science fiction-horror novella by American author H. P. Lovecraft, written in February/March 1931 and rejected that year by Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright on the grounds of its length. It was originally serialized in the February, March, and April 1936 issues of Astounding Stories. It has been reproduced in numerous collections.

The story details the events of a disastrous expedition to the Antarctic continent in September 1930, and what was found there by a group of explorers led by the narrator, Dr. William Dyer of Miskatonic University. Throughout the story, Dyer details a series of previously untold events in the hope of deterring another group of explorers who wish to return to the continent.

Clifford Ball

Clifford Ball (1896?-1947?) was an American fantasy writer whose primary distinction was having been one of the earliest post-Howard writers in the sword and sorcery subgenre of fantasy.

Before dropping from sight, Ball contributed six short stories to the pulp magazine Weird Tales during its heyday in the 1930s and 1940s under the editorships of Farnsworth Wright and Dorothy McIlwraith. The setting of the first three is vaguely like Howard's Hyborian Age of warring kingdoms, and features the barbarian adventurers Duar, an amnesiac king protected by a guardian sprite, and Rald, a thief and mercenary. The remaining stories are more conventional fantasies.In the October 1937 issue of Weird Tales (Volume 30, issue 4) the following biographical information is given: This 29-year-old newest sensation of Weird Tales has led a life as adventurous as that of either of his two barbarian heroes. He went through high school in Millerstown, Pennsylvania, experiencing great difficulty with his mathematics and with a young and attractive school-teacher of whom he became enamored. After he had been graduated, he took a job in the license bureau of the State Highway Department. A few months later he began to hate the place, and left. The Miami catastrophe of 1927 occurred, and he and a friend trekked south to Florida, expecting to find heavy salaries waiting for eager workers. The state was "broke;" and tourists, alarmed by the tidal wave, were frightened away. Ball has slung hash, worked on dynamite crews as a capper, fry-cooked, run a dice table in a gambling-house, dug ditches, leveled auto springs, spread cloth in a shirt factory, and served beer in a Virginia tavern. This will always remain in Ball's memory, he says, as the best moments of his life. (page 510)

Some of Ball's stories have been reprinted from the 1970s onward, most notably in the celebrated Ballantine Adult Fantasy series edited by Lin Carter.

David Wright O'Brien

David Wright O’Brien (1918–1944) was an American fantasy and science fiction writer. A nephew of Farnsworth Wright, editor of Weird Tales, he was 22 years old when his first story ("Truth Is a Plague!") appeared in the February 1940 issue of Amazing Stories.

Between January 1941 and August 1942, he had more than fifty-seven stories published in pulp magazines like Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures, most of them written under the pen names John York Cabot, Duncan Farnsworth, Clee Garson and Richard Vardon. Some of the stories were co-written with his close friend William P. McGivern, with whom O'Brien shared an office in Chicago. He continued writing even after he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, adding “corporal” before all his pseudonyms. O’Brien died at age twenty-six, while flying a bombing raid over Berlin.

E. Hoffmann Price

Edgar Hoffmann Price (July 3, 1898 – June 18, 1988) was an American writer of popular fiction (he was a self-titled 'fictioneer') for the pulp magazine marketplace. He collaborated with H. P. Lovecraft on "Through the Gates of the Silver Key".

Fantasy Fan

The Fantasy Fan was the first fan magazine in the weird fiction field and therefore holds an important place in the history of the American fantasy and horror fiction pulp magazine. Issued monthly, it was first published in September 1933, and discontinued 18 issues later in February 1935. The magazine was edited by Charles D. Hornig (25 May 1916 - 11 October 1999).

In the Vault

"In the Vault' is a short story by American horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft, written on September 18, 1925 and first published in the November 1925 issue of the amateur press journal Tryout.

In the Walls of Eryx

"In the Walls of Eryx" is a short story by American writers H. P. Lovecraft and Kenneth J. Sterling, written in January 1936 and first published in Weird Tales magazine in October 1939. It is unusual among Lovecraft's work, being a standard science fiction story involving space exploration in the near future.

John Farnsworth Wright

John Farnsworth Wright (15 October 1929 – 19 November 2001) was a British economist. He published the book Britain in the Age of Economic Management. He was a skeptic on government interventions in the economy.

He was born in Sheffield in 1929 and educated at King Edward VII School, specializing in math and physics for which he won a Hastings Scholarship to The Queen's College, Oxford, in 1947. Wright then spent two years in the National Service in the Royal Army Education Corps, and it was during this time that he studied philosophy, politics, and economics. He then began at Nuffield College, Oxford in 1952 as an early student.He was appointed Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, in 1953; he was Tutor in Economics 1953–1990, Official Fellow 1955–1957, Estates Bursar 1955–1997, and became an Emeritus Fellow in 1998.

Margaret Brundage

Margaret Brundage, born Margaret Hedda Johnson (December 9, 1900 – April 9, 1976), was an American illustrator and painter who is remembered chiefly for having illustrated the pulp magazine Weird Tales. Working in pastels on illustration board, she created most of the covers for Weird Tales between 1933 and 1938.

Nikam

The Nikam are a Maratha clan found primarily in Maharashtra and bordering states of India. They are Hindus.

Oriental Stories

Oriental Stories, later retitled The Magic Carpet Magazine, was an American pulp magazine of 1930-34, an offshoot of the famous Weird Tales.

Like its parent, it was published by J.C. Henneberger's Popular Fiction Publishing and edited by Farnsworth Wright. As its titles indicate, the magazine specialized in adventure and fantasy stories with Oriental settings and elements. Its stories were largely written by the same distinctive group of authors that filled the pages of Weird Tales, including Robert E. Howard, Otis Adelbert Kline, E. Hoffmann Price, Clark Ashton Smith, and Frank Owen, among others.The magazine struggled financially for the entirety of its existence (as indeed did Weird Tales); it was published first bi-monthly, then quarterly, during the grimmest years of the Great Depression. Volume 1 of Oriental Stories consisted of 6 issues that appeared on newsstands from October 1930 through Autumn 1931; Volume 2 comprised only 3 issues in the first half of 1932 (Winter, Spring, Summer). After a six-month hiatus, the first of four quarterly issues of Volume 3 appeared in January 1933, but with the new title The Magic Carpet. ("Oriental Stories combined with The Magic Carpet Magazine," read the masthead of Vol. 3 No. 1, January 1933.)

One notable contributor to The Magic Carpet was popular pulp author H. Bedford-Jones. Still unable to muster sufficient circulation, Volume 4 started and ended with the single issue No. 1 in January 1934. The Magic Carpet was then defunct.

Paula Raymond

Paula Raymond (born Paula Ramona Wright, November 23, 1924 – December 31, 2003) was an American model and actress who played the leading lady in numerous movies and television series episodes. She was the niece of American pulp-magazine editor Farnsworth Wright.

Robert E. Howard

Robert Ervin Howard (January 22, 1906 – June 11, 1936) was an American author who wrote pulp fiction in a diverse range of genres. He is well known for his character Conan the Barbarian and is regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre.

Howard was born and raised in Texas. He spent most of his life in the town of Cross Plains, with some time spent in nearby Brownwood. A bookish and intellectual child, he was also a fan of boxing and spent some time in his late teens bodybuilding, eventually taking up amateur boxing. From the age of nine he dreamed of becoming a writer of adventure fiction but did not have real success until he was 23. Thereafter, until his death by suicide at age 30, Howard's writings were published in a wide selection of magazines, journals, and newspapers, and he became proficient in several subgenres. His greatest success occurred after his death.

Although a Conan novel was nearly published in 1934, Howard's stories were never collected during his lifetime. The main outlet for his stories was Weird Tales, where Howard created Conan the Barbarian. With Conan and his other heroes, Howard helped fashion the genre now known as sword and sorcery, spawning many imitators and giving him a large influence in the fantasy field. Howard remains a highly read author, with his best works still reprinted.

Howard's suicide and the circumstances surrounding it have led to speculation about his mental health. His mother had been ill with tuberculosis his entire life, and upon learning she had entered a coma from which she was not expected to wake, he walked out to his car and shot himself in the head.

The Frost-Giant's Daughter

"The Frost-Giant's Daughter" is one of the original fantasy short stories about Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard.

It's set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and details Conan pursuing a spectral nymph across the frozen tundra of Nordheim. Rejected as a Conan story by Weird Tales magazine editor Farnsworth Wright, Howard changed the main character's name to "Amra of Akbitana" and retitled the piece as "The Gods of the North", in which it was published in the March 1934 issue of The Fantasy Fan. It was not published in its original form in Howard's lifetime.

The Outsider and Others

The Outsider and Others is a collection of stories by American writer H. P. Lovecraft. It was released in 1939 and was the first book published by Arkham House. 1,268 copies were printed. It went out of print early in 1944 and has never been reprinted.

The volume takes its name from the Lovecraft short story "The Outsider"; The Outsider and Other Stories was Lovecraft's preferred title for a short story collection considered, but never issued, by Farnsworth Wright. The stories for this volume were selected by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei. The dust jacket art was a montage of drawings by Virgil Finlay for Weird Tales magazine, of which only one or two had originally illustrated Lovecraft stories.

E. F. Bleiler describes the collection's publication as "the beginning of serious specialist publishing of fantastic fiction in America".

The Phoenix on the Sword

"The Phoenix on the Sword" is one of the original short stories about Conan the Cimmerian, written by American author Robert E. Howard, and first published in Weird Tales magazine, in December, 1932. The tale, in which Howard created the character of Conan, was a rewrite of the unpublished Kull story, "By This Axe I Rule!", with long passages being identical. The Conan version of the story was republished in the collections King Conan (Gnome Press, 1953) and Conan the Usurper (Lancer Books, 1967). It has most recently been republished in the collections The Conan Chronicles Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (Gollancz, 2001) and Conan of Cimmeria: Volume One (1932-1933) (Del Rey, 2003). It is set in the pseudo-historical Hyborian Age and details Conan foiling a nefarious plot to unseat him as king of Aquilonia.

It is noteworthy that the very first Conan story depicts him as a king - which means that when writing later stories placed earlier in Conan's life, as a thief, pirate, mercenary etc., Howard (and his readers) already knew that the character was ultimately destined to become a king.

The Silver Key

"The Silver Key" is a short story written by H. P. Lovecraft in 1926, considered part of his Dreamlands series. It was first published in the January 1929 issue of Weird Tales. It is a continuation of "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath", and was followed by a sequel, "Through the Gates of the Silver Key", co-written with E. Hoffmann Price. The story and its sequel both feature Lovecraft's recurring character of Randolph Carter as the protagonist.

Weird Tales

Weird Tales is an American fantasy and horror fiction pulp magazine founded by J. C. Henneberger and J. M. Lansinger in late 1922. The first issue, dated March 1923, appeared on newsstands February 18th. The first editor, Edwin Baird, printed early work by H. P. Lovecraft, Seabury Quinn, and Clark Ashton Smith, all of whom would go on to be popular writers, but within a year the magazine was in financial trouble. Henneberger sold his interest in the publisher, Rural Publishing Corporation, to Lansinger and refinanced Weird Tales, with Farnsworth Wright as the new editor. The first issue under Wright's control was dated November 1924. The magazine was more successful under Wright, and despite occasional financial setbacks it prospered over the next fifteen years. Under Wright's control the magazine lived up to its subtitle, "The Unique Magazine", and published a wide range of unusual fiction.

Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos stories first appeared in Weird Tales, starting with "The Call of Cthulhu" in 1928. These were well-received, and a group of writers associated with Lovecraft wrote other stories set in the same milieu. Robert E. Howard was a regular contributor, and published several of his Conan the Barbarian stories in the magazine, and Seabury Quinn's series of stories about Jules de Grandin, a detective who specialized in cases involving the supernatural, was very popular with the readers. Other well-liked authors included Nictzin Dyalhis, E. Hoffmann Price, Robert Bloch, and H. Warner Munn. Wright published some science fiction, along with the fantasy and horror, partly because when Weird Tales was launched there were no magazines specializing in science fiction, but he continued this policy even after the launch of magazines such as Amazing Stories in 1926. Edmond Hamilton wrote a good deal of science fiction for Weird Tales, though after a few years he used the magazine for his more fantastic stories, and submitted his space operas elsewhere.

In 1938 the magazine was sold to William Delaney, the publisher of Short Stories, and within two years Wright, who was ill, was replaced by Dorothy McIlwraith as editor. Although some successful new authors and artists, such as Ray Bradbury and Hannes Bok, continued to appear, the magazine is considered by critics to have declined under McIlwraith from its heyday in the 1930s. Weird Tales ceased publication in 1954, but since then numerous attempts have been made to relaunch the magazine, starting in 1973. The longest-lasting version began in 1988 and ran with an occasional hiatus for over 20 years under an assortment of publishers. In the mid-1990s the title was changed to Worlds of Fantasy & Horror because of licensing issues, with the original title returning in 1998. As of 2018, the most recent published issue was dated Spring 2014.

The magazine is regarded by historians of fantasy and science fiction as a legend in the field, with Robert Weinberg, author of a history of the magazine, considering it "the most important and influential of all fantasy magazines". Weinberg's fellow historian, Mike Ashley, is more cautious, describing it as "second only to Unknown in significance and influence", adding that "somewhere in the imagination reservoir of all U.S. (and many non-U.S.) genre-fantasy and horror writers is part of the spirit of Weird Tales".

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