The Magazine of the Week is the September 1937 issue of Weird Tales, with cover art by legendary pulp illustrator Margaret Brundage. Margaret Brundage was a Chicago housewife who delighted in pushing the limits of the time with her racy covers for Weird Tales. This particular cover illustrates the story "Satan's Palimpsest" by Seabury Quinn. Seabury Quinn was by no means the best of the Weird Tales authors (although his Jules de Grandin supernatural mystery stories were popular at the time), yet he consistently managed to get his stories on the cover. His secret? He made sure each of his stories had at least one nude scene.
During the 1930's, Weird Tales boasted a tremendous array of talented authors, including in particular Robert E. Howard, discussed last week, and hugely influential horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. The September 1937 issue is a good example of the wealth of talent writing for Weird Tales in the 1930's. In addition to Howard and Lovecraft, the issue includes work by such excellent authors as August Derleth, Clark Ashton Smith, Edmond Hamilton, Manly Wade Wellman, and Henry Kuttner.
But from its peak in the mid- to late 1930's, Weird Tales suddenly went into a tailspin. The magazine remained in print through 1954 (and there have been several attempts to resurrect it since then), but Weird Tales never regained its form after the 1930's. The cause of the magazine's sudden decline was the untimely deaths of its editor and its two best writers. In 1936, depressed by his mother's illness, Robert E. Howard committed suicide at the age of only 30. H.P. Lovecraft died of cancer at 46 the next year, and Farnsworth Wright succumbed to Parkinson's disease in 1940. After their deaths, science fiction became the dominant form of fantastic literature, and fantasy and horror largely went into hibernation until J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen King came along to resurrect the fields decades later. But how differently things might have gone if Howard and Lovecraft and Wright had lived.
Having surveyed the earliest science fiction and fantasy pulps, we will continue our history of the pulp magazines with some pulps outside of the SF/F genre. But first we'll take a break so I can boast of a couple recent book acquisitions.