Sunday, February 2, 2020

Farnsworth Wright’s Favorite Weird Tales by Bobby Derie

Julius Schwartz
In 1932, teenage fan Julius Schwartz became involved with the Science Fiction Digest, a high-end fanzine (which in 1934 would become Fantasy Magazine). One of the features of SFD was a series titled “Titans of Science Fiction,” short biographical pieces based on interviews with the subject. The last such piece before SFD changed its name concerned Farnsworth Wright, editor of Weird Tales from 1924 to 1940. In that piece, Schwartz reports:

Thinks the following stories are the best he has published, not in order:

The Stranger from Kurdistan—E. Hoffman Price;
The Phantom Farmhouse—Seabury Quinn;
The Outsider—H. P. Lovecraft;
The Werewolf of Ponkert—H. Warner Munn;
The Shadow Kingdom—Robert E. Howard;
The Canal—Everil Worrell;
The Wind that Tramps the world—Frank Owen.
—“Farnsworth Wright” by Julius Schwartz, Science Fiction Digest, March 1933

A year later in another fanzine called The Fantasy Fan, Schwartz and his frequent collaborator Mort Weisinger (who also wrote in SFD and would be the editor of Fantasy Magazine) wrote a column titled “Weird Whisperings,” containing factoids and scuttlebutt about weird and fantasy pulp writers and editors. One detail was apparently taken straight from the Wright interview:

Farnsworth Wright says the best stories he’s printed in Weird Tales are (not in the order listed): “The Stranger from Kurdistan” by Price, “The Phantom Farmhouse” by Quinn, “The Outsider” by Lovecraft, “The Werewolf of Ponkert” by Munn, “The Shadow Kingdom” by Howard, “The Canal” by Worrell, “The Wind that Tramps the World” by Owen…—“Weird Whisperings” by Schwartz & Weisinger, The Fantasy Fan June 1934

Farnsworth Wright
It isn’t clear why this particular list came out at this time; Farnsworth Wright was not normally in the habit of naming favorites. But the list may or may not have been influenced by a conversation among the Weird Tales circle a few years earlier. In 1930, August Derleth was working on his B.A. thesis at the University of Wisconsin, on weird fiction, and had sent a long list of what he considered the best stories in the Unique Magazine to H. P. Lovecraft. The Old Gent from Providence went through his own archive of the magazine, and sent a letter to Wright with his own list:

Last week I went over my whole file of Weird Tales in an effort to check up a list of best stories prepared by young Derleth and came to the conclusion that, of everything published since the first number, the following items have the greatest amount of truly cosmic horror and macabre convincingness. I don’t know whether Derleth will agree with me or not, but these are all on his vastly longer list of superior tales. They are: