Weird Tales v35n02, March 1940

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Fiction:
The Horror in the Glen • short story by Clyde Irvine ♥♥
Train for Flushing • short story by Malcolm Jameson ♥♥♥
The Song of the Slaves • short story by Manly Wade Wellman ♥♥
The Golden Spider • novelette by Seabury Quinn ♥♥♥
Slaves of the Gray Mold • novelette by Thorp McClusky
A Million Years in the Future (Part 2 of 4) • serial by Thomas P. Kelley ♥♥
Bramwell’s Guardian • short story by August Derleth ♥
The Specter of Virginia • short story by Clive Leonard ♥

Non-fiction:
Cover • Hannes Bok
Interior artwork • Hannes Bok, Harry Ferman, Andrew Brosnatch, Margaret Brundage
The Dweller • reprint poem by H. P. Lovecraft
“Broken is the Golden Bowl” • poetry artwork by Virgil Finlay
The Centurion’s Prisoner • essay by Lindsay Nisbet
The Eyrie • reader’s letters
Coming Next Issue

This issue was the last to have Farnsworth Wright listed as editor. During his time at Weird Tales, according to SFE, ‘more than anyone else, [he] helped establish the reputations of Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, and (rather daringly) used the work of Margaret Brundage.’ 1 After being at the helm for 177 issues he left from what sounds like a mixture of economic reasons and health problems2—for most of the time he was at the magazine he had suffered badly from Parkinson’s disease. By the middle of 1940 he was dead aged 51, a sad loss to the field.

The fiction in this issue starts with the first of three short stories, The Horror in the Glen by Clyde Irvine, which is about one Scottish clan murdering another, except for one young boy who escapes:

For I am Malcolm Dhu Glas, who is known better just as plain Malcolm Douglas, and the name of me is the way it is said in the tongue we have, the Gaelic, and it means “Malcolm of the Black Water,” for it was beside the dark waters of Loch Dhu itself that I was taken into the country of Boadellen, Queen of the Borderland and Ruler of the Underworld, and there held prisoner for seven years by the time of man, but only an hour by the sun-dial that is cut around the pillar in the Court of the Seven Circles.
First you must know that I was born in Benallerton. I had the “second sight,” for I was the seventh son of a seventh son and the height of me was six feet and the half of it, and I weighed one-third the meat on a stallion’s bones.
p.8

After surviving for some time in the wild he is taken to Queen Boadellen in the Borderland. There he witnesses his murdered kinfolk in purgatory, and he is tempted for seven years with the opportunity to live in luxury, while his kinfolk suffer. After resisting these temptations (spoiler) the Queen returns him to the glen where the murdering McGreggans live and he pretends to be a wealthy visiting Englishman. Just before they set upon him at a feast he summons the Queen’s spirits and murders them all. There is no real plot complication here, and I’m not sure what the motivation of the Queen of the Borderland is. That said it has some narrative drive if you don’t think too much about what is going on.
The Scottish details seem accurate, but ‘Clyde Irvine’ sounds like pseudonym created from a map of the Glasgow area: the writer’s only other publications, according to ISFDB,3 were a dozen or so tales in Jungle Stories.
The second short story is Train for Flushing, quite a good fantasy by Malcolm Jameson. This is an intriguing variant of the ‘Flying Dutchman’ myth that has an elderly man and woman trapped on a subway coach with an insane Dutchman. After the latter separates the coach from the rest of the train they travel all around the network and frequently pass through the other trains on the tracks.
After a decade of this the man, who is writing an account of what is happening to them, realises he is growing younger…. Later, they end up above ground and see troops mobilising for the Cuban War and then, later still, end up on a stagecoach and hear of Custer’s death. This is presented partially in the form of a journal found by police and given to a psychiatric clinic.
Next is The Song of the Slaves by Manly Wade Wellman. This gets off to quite a good if grim start with its tale of Gender, a slave owner, who has hired a ship and men to go to Africa to capture his own slaves. On the way back to the ship the slaves sing about killing Gender, regardless of how much he attempts to beat them into silence. Once on board he leaves them shackled as a punishment, and they are subsequently pursued by a British naval vessel. If the slaves are still on board by the time the British catch up it will go very badly for Gender and the captain….
The second part of the story is a bit too much by the numbers but there is quite a good final scene.

The Golden Spider by Seabury Quinn is the first and best of the two novelettes that follow. It is an account of Fourchette and her husband, who are serfs to the seigneur. One day men from the castle come to her cottage while she is alone and demand a drink of milk. When she protests that the goat is suckling the kid and there is none to spare, they kill the kid, then the goat, and finally rape Fourchette. Needless to say the first two actions are grimly described while the third is implied.
Fourchette subsequently makes a pact with the devil and the rest of the story details her and her husband’s rise in the world. Until, that is, the seigneur’s wife decides to settle a few scores by imprisoning her to make her confess to witchcraft. The ending wasn’t what I was expecting, and although I thought it worked after a fashion I am not sure everyone will think the same.
Unfortunately, the second novelette, Slaves of the Gray Mold by Thorp McClusky,4 is the poorest story in the issue. It is a potboiler about an alien mould that can take over humans and then hypnotically control others. After a number of standard pulp scenes, a police lieutenant spotting possible financial irregularities, a down-and-out winning big at the races, a marital engagement being broken off, etc., it slowly wends its way (spoiler) to an ending with sub-Lovecraftian aliens coming through a portal.

The next part of Thomas P. Kelley’s serial, A Million Years in the Future, is a pulp potboiler for the first two thirds or so of this instalment. After escaping Jan and Abel find out the female captive in the spaceship is called Vonna. Then the alarm is raised so they wake the pilot and force him to launch the ship, but it materialises they only have enough fuel to reach the forbidden Moon of Madness.
When they land there they discover it seems to be made of ancient black rock. They hear drums coming towards them.… A certain amount of filler later they have fought off a flying serpent and discovered and befriended dwarf men who live in an extensive underground cave. They are told that a nearby altar is used by vampire woman who live in a distant castle—and who will be coming for one his people tonight.
About this point the story starts becoming a bit more interesting and strange. Having been in a sword and spaceship story our hero is now convincing a race of subterranean dwarves to fight the vampire women! When one of them arrives that night, Jan tells her to leave. There are some ill-natured exchanges before she realises it would be wise to depart:

“I go, I go,” she spoke hurriedly, for it was evident that in another minute the fast-mounting rage of the little men would hurl them upon her. “I go to tell the Sisters your answer, but remember what happened ages ago when a chief of your tribe sought to defy us. Again we will send the black wolf to the inner world to summon his cloven-footed brethren. Again they will come from the volcano in the great number that will sweep all before them. And tomorrow at sundown I and my sisters will wing from the castle, and lead them straight here to devour you all.
“Then we will see if this man can save you!” she cried. “Then we will see if the defiance he now flaunts can protect the tribe of Shebak from the dripping maws and rending teeth of the cruel Wolves of Worra!”
And with a wild scream that ended in a high, terrible laugh, the Vampire-Woman leaped into the air, and flapped dismally away into the night. p.96

The Wolves of Worra start assembling during the day beside the inactive volcano in the distance, and they end up numbering five thousand or so. Just as Jan and the leader of the dwarves are resigning themselves to being killed Vonna suggests rousing the five hundred Black Raiders on the ship. Jan does this and the men follow him towards the fight and the battle commences. Just as they seem to be getting the upper hand a second wave of wolves appear. Jan is knocked unconscious.
When Jan wakes he surmises he is in the castle of the vampire women. They return as night is ending and are about to kill him when dawn breaks. They quickly retreat to their tomb below. Jan frees himself, follows them down, and dispatches them.
The dwarf leader has previously told Jan that the Vampire Woman were there to protect the Black Tower, which contains the great god Time and the secret that can destroy Tara, the Queen of the Raiders. Jan starts a perilous climb up the outside of the tower and, after nearly plummeting to his death, makes it to the room at the top:

The only furniture consisted of the great, throne-like chair that faced me, all black-stone as was the thick pedestal that rose before it, on which glowed and sparkled a golden, crystal-like ball, the size of a man’s head.
But what had at once caught my eye was the huge, statue-like figure which sat so majestically upon that age-old throne—a figure apparently carved from the black rock of the mighty seat itself, as also seemed the flowing robes that adorned his massive seven-foot frame, and the two large hands that held a weighty scepter in his lap. The great beard of that aged monarch, whitened by the snow of centuries and reaching to an amazing length, had grown around and around the throne upon which he sat, lost in deep revery, and buried in dreams. p.106

This starts an almost hallucinogenic section where the god Time telepathically communicates to Jan that he and Queen Tara existed before creation and after creating the universe she imprisoned him here so she could rule alone. Time then tells Jan to take his ring to Queen Tara’s quarters and touch it to the Ball of Life she possesses. This will draw her and Time’s Balls of Life together destroying the planet and the moons.
At this point, Tara senses their conversation and blocks any further communication. Jan escapes the tower by climbing down Time’s long beard in some weird kind of anti-Rapunzel scene.
In conclusion, this part of the serial starts out as a not particularly good pulp potboiler before it gets into some entertaining vampire silliness, finally climaxing with transcendent last scenes. It also highlights the inadequacies of a star rating system given I didn’t think this part particularly good overall but found it occasionally fascinating. I’ll be interested to see what the next instalment holds.

The last two pieces of fiction are short stories. Bramwell’s Guardian by August Derleth, is a rather too straightforward story about a man who finds a Druidic ring on Salisbury Plain. There seems to be a shadowy guardian following the ring, and the man subsequently ignores advice to put it back where he found it….
The Specter of Virginia by Clive Leonard tells of two military men called Graham who meet in the American War of Independence. One of them is a Scotsman paroled to a member of Washington’s forces. The tale recounted by one to the other is about a haunted and bloody skean dhu that is a family heirloom. Not so much a story but a supernatural occurrence that is relatively undeveloped.

The non-fiction is this issue includes a new ‘It Happened to Me’ true story column. The first, The Centurion’s Prisoner by Lindsay Nisbet, is a short Roman piece and reads like an undeveloped story synopsis. Hannes Bok contributes the cover and a few of the internal illustrations too. The latter were not as good as I expected: a couple are quite dark and it is hard to make out what is going on in them.5 None of the other artwork grabbed me either.
This issue’s The Eyrie has letters by Ray Bradbury (praising Hannes Bok’s work) and Robert A. Lowndes amongst others. There is talk about the Weird Tales club and one letter about an LA meeting in particular (from a pseudonymous Forrest J. Ackerman), more comment about Seabury Quinn’s work (praise for Uncanonized this time), and comment about various other stories.

Quite an interesting issue.

  1. Farnsworth Wright at SFE.
  2. Robert Weinberg, The Weird Tales Story, p.43
    I was also told that E. Hoffman Price states in his Book of the Dead, ‘he was dismissed because of physical disabilities‘. Nice.
  3. Clyde Irvine at ISFDB.
  4. This is the fifth and last of Thorp McClusky’s ‘Peters and Ethredge‘ series.
  5. This one of Hannes Bok’s, and looks like some kind of Rorschach test:WT194003x600art1
    But this one is better:
    WT194003x600art3
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