OR: Weird Tales #327

A review that originally appeared in The Fix #4:-


On the front cover there’s a painting by Dominic Harman of what appears to be an orc-Borg hybrid with a nasty case of indigestion and a candle wick sticking out of the top of its head, while inside we get decent if uninspiring illustrations from the likes of George Barr and Allen Koszowski. The paper is cheap and in my copy a couple of pages suffer from blurred print.

The magazine has seven stories, covering the whole range of fantasy. Stephen Gallagher starts off with the poignant ‘Little Dead Girl Singing’, a disquieting look at the fierce competitiveness of junior talent contests, with some finely drawn characters and only the give away title to undermine the general feel of the story. Darrell Schweitzer’s ‘Whom Even Death Might Fear’ steps confidently into the world of Dunsany, with a wry and bitterly ironic account of a man pursuing his destiny, albeit with a destiny that also pursues him. ‘Cthulhu Fhtagn, Baby!’ is a small comic gem by Will Ludwigsen, ostensibly the review of a new Broadway production derived from the works of HPL, a wickedly tongue in cheek send-up of showbiz hype and all things Lloyd Webber. Set in Hong Kong and making use of local colour, ‘The Cat, The Ladder, and The Man Mo Shrine’ by Tony Richards isn’t as well written as it might be (beware of writers whose characters do things ‘baffledly’), but after selling the reader a red herring or two, delivers an intriguing story rooted in eastern cosmology and with a strong moral at its heart.

Michelle Cacho-Negrete’s ‘The Quilter’ is the low point of the issue, written in an oblique style that doesn’t let you get a handle on what’s taking place, other than it’s something to do with a woman who sews her own memories of suffering into the texture of the quilts she makes for other people. There’s some strong imagery here, and at times the narrative is very moving, but it all remained somehow too vague. And from worst to best with Tanith Lee’s ‘The Flicker of a Winter Star’ in which the high spirited Ernestine is sent away to fester and die in an old people’s home but has the last laugh on her neglectful family thanks to a spectral werewolf. This is common or garden supernatural fare elevated into something quite special by the ability of the writer to turn a stock situation on its head. Lee knows exactly what she is doing and does it admirably well, building the story one painstaking step at a time, casually dropping hints and slotting every detail into place like the expert craftswoman she is. The larger than life Ernestine is a delightful and sympathetic character, someone we feel privileged to know, while her odious son-in-law is the typical panto villain you love to hiss and whose sticky end is an occasion for hand clapping and dancing in the street. And lastly there’s ‘Hero’s Way Out’ by Ralph Ganelli, which seemed very familiar to me, though I can’t place where I’ve seen the idea before. A man about to die thanks to a selfless act, one entirely out of character, is made various offers by the celestial powers that be. There are some delicious touches of wry humour here, with a wealth of incidental invention and a satisfying twist at the end. A nice note on which to bring the curtain down.

Weird Tales may no longer dominate the field in quite the way it did in its pulp heyday, but it is a magazine that offers a solid and varied diet of fantasy entertainment, with quality as a given.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s