Download Issues of “Weird Tales” (1923–1954): The Pioneering Pulp Horror Magazine Features Original Stories by Lovecraft, Bradbury & Many More

We live in an era of genre. Browse through TV shows of the last decade to see what I mean: Hor­ror, sci-fi, fan­ta­sy, super­heroes, futur­is­tic dystopias…. Take a casu­al glance at the bur­geon­ing glob­al film fran­chis­es or mer­chan­dis­ing empires. Where in ear­li­er decades, hor­ror and fan­ta­sy inhab­it­ed the teenage domain of B‑movies and com­ic books, they’ve now become dom­i­nant forms of pop­u­lar nar­ra­tive for adults. Telling the sto­ry of how this came about might involve the kind of lengthy soci­o­log­i­cal analy­sis on which peo­ple stake aca­d­e­m­ic careers. And find­ing a con­ve­nient begin­ning for that sto­ry wouldn’t be easy.

Do we start with The Cas­tle of Otran­tothe first Goth­ic nov­el, which opened the door for such books as Drac­u­la and Franken­stein? Or do we open with Edgar Allan Poe, whose macabre short sto­ries and poems cap­ti­vat­ed the public’s imag­i­na­tion and inspired a mil­lion imi­ta­tors? Maybe. But if we real­ly want to know when the most pop­ulist, mass-mar­ket hor­ror and fan­ta­sy began—the kind that inspired tele­vi­sion shows from the Twi­light Zone to the X‑Files to Super­nat­ur­al to The Walk­ing Dead—we need to start with H.P. Love­craft, and with the pulpy mag­a­zine that pub­lished his bizarre sto­ries, Weird Tales.

Debut­ing in 1923, Weird Taleswrites The Pulp Mag­a­zines Projectpro­vid­ed “a venue for fic­tion, poet­ry and non-fic­tion on top­ics rang­ing from ghost sto­ries to alien inva­sions to the occult.” The mag­a­zine intro­duced its read­ers to past mas­ters like Poe, Bram Stok­er, and H.G. Wells, and to the lat­est weird­ness from Love­craft and con­tem­po­raries like August Der­leth, Ash­ton Smith, Cather­ine L. Moore, Robert Bloch, and Robert E. Howard (cre­ator of Conan the Bar­bar­ian).

In the magazine’s first few decades, you wouldn’t have thought it very influ­en­tial. Founder Jacob Clark Hen­nen­berg­er strug­gled to turn a prof­it, and the mag­a­zine “nev­er had a large cir­cu­la­tion.” But no mag­a­zine is per­haps bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the explo­sion of pulp genre fic­tion that swept through the ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry and even­tu­al­ly gave birth to the jug­ger­nauts of Mar­vel and DC.

Weird Tales is wide­ly accept­ed by cul­tur­al his­to­ri­ans as “the first pulp mag­a­zine to spe­cial­ize in super­nat­ur­al and occult fic­tion,” points out The Ency­clo­pe­dia of Sci­ence Fic­tion (though, as we not­ed beforean obscure Ger­man title, The Orchid Gardentech­ni­cal­ly got there ear­li­er). And while the mag­a­zine may not have been wide­ly pop­u­lar, as the Vel­vet Under­ground was to the rapid spread of var­i­ous sub­gen­era of rock in the sev­en­ties, so was Weird Tales to hor­ror and fan­ta­sy fan­dom. Every­one who read it either start­ed their own mag­a­zine or fan­club, or began writ­ing their own “weird fic­tion”—Lovecraft’s term for the kind of super­nat­ur­al hor­ror he churned out for sev­er­al decades.

Fans of Love­craft can read and down­load scans of his sto­ries and let­ters to the edi­tor pub­lished in Weird Tales at the links below, brought to us by The Lovecraft in Zine (via SFFau­dio).

Let­ter to the edi­tor of Weird TalesSep­tem­ber 1923 – Sep­tem­ber 1923

Let­ter to the edi­tor of Weird TalesOcto­ber 1923 – Octo­ber 1923

Let­ter to the edi­tor of Weird TalesJan­u­ary 1924 – Jan­u­ary 1924

Let­ter to the edi­tor of Weird TalesMarch 1924 – March 1924

Impris­oned With The Pharaohs – May/June/July 1924

Hyp­nos – May/June/July 1924

The Tomb – Jan­u­ary 1926

The Ter­ri­ble Old Man – August 1926

Yule Hor­ror – Decem­ber 1926

The White Ship – March 1927

Let­ter to the edi­tor of Weird Tales, Feb­ru­ary 1928 – Feb­ru­ary 1928

The Dun­wich Hor­ror – April 1929

The Tree – August 1938

Fun­gi From Yug­goth Part XIII: The Port – Sep­tem­ber 1946

Fun­gi From Yug­goth Part X: The Pigeon-Fly­ers – Jan­u­ary 1947

Fun­gi From Yug­goth Part XXVI: The Famil­iars – Jan­u­ary 1947

The City – July 1950

Hallowe’en In A Sub­urb – Sep­tem­ber 1952

Fans of ear­ly pulp hor­ror and fantasy—–or grad stu­dents writ­ing their the­sis on the evo­lu­tion of genre fiction—can view and down­load dozens of issues of Weird Talesfrom the 20s to the 50s, at the links below:

The Inter­net Archive has dig­i­tized copies from the 1920s and 1930s.

The Pulp Mag­a­zine Project hosts HTML, Flip­Book, and PDF ver­sions of Weird Tales issues from 1936 to 1939

This site has PDF scans of indi­vid­ual Weird Tales sto­ries from the 40s and 50s, includ­ing work by Love­craft, Ray Brad­bury, Dorothy Quick, Robert Blochand Theodor Stur­geon.

And to learn much more about the his­to­ry of the mag­a­zine, you may wish to beg, bor­row, or steal a copy of the pri­cy col­lec­tion of essays, The Unique Lega­cy of Weird Tales: The Evo­lu­tion of Mod­ern Fan­ta­sy and Hor­ror.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dis­cov­er the First Hor­ror & Fan­ta­sy Mag­a­zine, Der Orchideen­garten, and Its Bizarre Art­work (1919–1921)

Enter a Huge Archive of Amaz­ing Sto­riesthe World’s First Sci­ence Fic­tion Mag­a­zine, Launched in 1926

Down­load 15,000+ Free Gold­en Age Comics from the Dig­i­tal Com­ic Muse­um

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness



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