In “The Eyrie” of the March 1924 issue of Weird Tales, H. P. Lovecraft wrote, “Popular authors do not and apparently cannot appreciate the fact that true art is obtainable only by rejecting normally and conventionality in toto, and approaching a theme purged utterly of any usual or preconceived point of view.” A bold statement, to say the least, especially in a magazine whose byline is The Unique Magazine. But Lovecraft demanded his fiction to be unconventionally ‘other than,’ and as original as possible. For him, crafting a story was an art form. In this same letter, Lovecraft goes on to declare:
Wild and ‘different’ as they may consider their quasi-weird products, it remains a fact that the bizarrerie is on the surface alone; and that basically they reiterate the same old conventional values and motives and perspectives. Good and evil, teleological illusion, sugary sentiment, anthropocentric psychology—the usual superficial stock trade, and all shot through with the eternal and inescapable commonplace.
Had Lovecraft accepted the job as editor when J. C. Henneberger offered it to him back in 1924, he would have likely been a harsh editor, and the magazine would have taken a decidedly different path. Much of the fiction Edwin Baird and Farnsworth Wright accepted would have, no doubt, been rejected by Lovecraft. But alas, we were rewarded the benefit of Lovecraft the writer. There is no telling exactly which stories or authors Lovecraft was disparaging in this letter to Weird Tales’ editor at the time, Edwin Baird. They may have not been Weird Tales’ authors, though it is likely most were. Even so, Lovecraft is making a valid point regarding breaking away from conventional story writing, creating an original tale, thinking outside the box. At least his creative mind demanded as much. Something he also expected, or at least wanted other writers to do. Some of the readers of The Unique Magazine demanded the same, at least they demanded their stories weird, if not ‘original.’
|H. P. L|
So, in an effort to promulgate something weird and original, Lovecraft made this suggestion: “Take a werewolf story, for instance—who ever wrote one from the point of view of the wolf, and sympathizing strongly with the devil to whom he has sold himself?”
Those of us who love the pulps and their writers (we all have our favorites, of course), probably know that H. Warner Munn attempted to answer Lovecraft’s request with, “The Werewolf of Ponkert,” Munn’s first published short story. About Munn’s story, Farnsworth Wright claimed, “It was the popularity of Mr. Quinn’s werewolf story that led us to feature The Werewolf of Ponkert, by H. Warner Munn, in last months’ issue.” (italics is Wright’s) “The Werewolf of Ponkert” was the cover story for the July 1925 issue of Weird Tales, the same issue in which Robert E. Howard made his debut with “Spear and Fang.”
Lovecraft, as far as I’ve been able to determine, never responded to Munn’s story in “The Eyrie” of any of the subsequent Weird Tales issues. It’s possible that when “The Werewolf of Ponkert” was first published, Lovecraft did not put two and two together and notice that his March 1924 letter in “The Eyrie” was Munn’s inspiration. In fact, it may be that Lovecraft never knew that fact until after he met Munn, and Munn confessed as much. However, there is some evidence from Munn himself that Lovecraft may have recognized Munn’s efforts on behalf of Lovecraft’s letter: