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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Weird Tales: The Editorial Fiasco

There's something troublesome about what is going on with Weird Tales.  Yesterday, Ann VanderMeer, the current-(no-longer)-editor of the magazine posted an announcement that she would not longer be editor.  More disturbing was the news that Weird Tales had been sold to another editor who seems to have purchased it in order to edit it himself (this fellow being Marvin Kaye).  The entire staff has been dropped, without much in the way of warning or transition.  Poof.  Done.  Over.  I'm sure there was something going on behind the scenes that we don't know, but it doesn't seem all that relevant when you consider the lack of professionalism going on here.

To add insult to injury, apparently the first thing Kaye intends to do is launch a Cthulu-themed issue of Weird Tales, taking the magazine backwards many decades.  It's almost as if they don't care what Ann did for Weird Tales -- dragging it out of the shadows of its past.  To be honest, I find myself agreeing with much of what Jason Sanford has already said on this issue:
Which brings me back to what I mentioned earlier about Ann's vision. Without a strong editorial vision a magazine can easily founder in the marketplace. Unfortunately, my take on Kaye's vision, which is based on the type of stories he's published in his anthologies over the years, is of someone in love with storytelling as it used to exist. The fact that his first issue as editor of Weird Tales will be "Cthulhu-themed" supports this view.
I'm not alone in this thinking. On Twitter, John Joseph Adams was asked what he knew about Kaye and replied "Not much, but I would expect WT to revert to the magazine it was 30-40 years ago." Warren Ellis echoed this by saying that Kaye is "clearly very retro in his tastes."
I simply don't get why we need more Cthulu stuff.  There are so many anthologies already out there, and more hitting shelves every day.  I get that Cthulu is fun and classic, but isn't the point of Weird Tales as it currently stands to get beyond rehashes of Lovecraftian thematics into other visions of the weird, macabre, bizarre, and downright strange?  And isn't going back to Lovecraft and Cthulu and all these classic forms of horror and weirdness taking things in the wrong direction?

It seems, to me, like a mighty dickish move.  I don't know Kaye, so perhaps he has good intentions and things got out of control.  But a lot of readers of Weird Tales are already talking about cancelling their subscriptions and many others are practically in boycott mode.  If the last few years have taught us anything about the genre community, it doesn't like it when someone else takes a dump on someone they like, even if the perception itself is inaccurate.  We just don't like it.
I guess this is farewell.  Sad, but true.  Ann will be greatly missed.  Maybe she'll start a Weird magazine of her own one day.  That would be mighty cool, no?  (Hint hint to any company wanting to start a magazine and in need of a staff...)

P.S.:  I linked to Jeff VanderMeer's blog primarily because I don't know how long Ann's post will remain up on Weird Tales considering how dickish it makes Kaye's move seem.

You all might also be interested in Warren Ellis' take.

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