Weird Tales is a legendary magazine whose roots go back to the 1920s and served as the proving grounds of many influential horror and weird authors such as H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, Clark Ashton Smith, and Frank Belknap Long. The periodical has exchanged hands and creative editors over the last 100 years, with many long spells of inactivity peppered throughout. The newest issue of Weird Tales, number 363, is the first issue in five years and sees prolific speculative fiction author Jonathan Maberry at the editorial director’s helm.
Issue 363 begins with “Up From Slavery” by Victor LaValle, a short story that is extremely condensed with the various subject matters it seeks to tackle. The story is about a down-on-his-luck editor named Simon who is juggling editing a new edition of Booker T. Washington’s autobiography while sorting out the affairs and inheritance of his recently departed biological father whom he had never met. As a black man, Simon has to deal with racism in his train travels to and from his father’s house in Syracuse. During one of these trips, things take an unexpected Lovecraftian twist when Simon meets a disguised Eldritch deity who reveals Simon to be a Shoggoth and commands him into murderous servitude. Normally depicted as a villain in most Lovecraft derivative works, LaValle subverts the renown monster by depicting Simon the Shoggoth in a sympathetic, maybe even heroic, fashion as he tries to resist his new master’s commands.
The second story in the issue is “The Post” by Josh Malerman. “The Post” deals with the inescapable reality that close-knit friendships often fall apart as time goes on, as young adults turn into adults proper and form new relationships with other folks. In this story, Connor yearns for the old days when he was younger and hanging out with his best friends Mike and Davey, both who have since had a falling out. One day, Mike sends Connor an empty package through the mail; however, the package turns out to be not so empty. It contains an idea that is subsequently planted in Connor’s mind: Kill Davey. Under the spell of this new idea, Connor begins to act differently, causing his significant other Tessa to start investigating what is going on. A sombre story that thankfully has a somewhat positive ending, Malerman’s story dives into a horror we all must face: life changes.
Lisa Morton’s “A Housekeeper’s Revenge” is the third story in the magazine and brings a slightly more fun and action-packed romp to the issue. As with LaValle’s offering, Morton’s story is a Lovecraftian one; a housekeeper named Carmen travels from fortified estate to fortified estate, killing the rich folk inside who had brought about the apocalypse. The accompanying art piece (unfortunately uncredited) to Morton’s story depicting a housekeeper sitting in a chair in an opulent den, holding a sword and wine glass, perfectly complements the story.
Jonathan Maberry’s “The Shadows Beneath the Stone” is the fourth story of the issue and is an excellent neo-peplum/horror hybrid tale that combines elements of Ladyhawke, Poe’s “The Black Cat,” Knights Templar lore, and Viking heathenry. “The Shadows Beneath the Stone” tells the story of young Julian Gunn who returns to his razed ancestral homeland in Scotland in the 1300s AD. His family’s lands are cursed, and his attempts to put right what was majorly wrong leads to an epic sword battle against an army of maleficent ghosts.
The rest of Weird Tales #363 is rounded out with shorter stories by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Hank Schwaeble, and Marc Bilgrey and poetry by Tori Eldridge and Stephanie W. Wytovich. Kenyon’s story is a fun voodoo tale, while Schwaeble’s revenge tale channels classic Creepshow/EC/Tales from the Crypt vibes.
Though this issue of Weird Tales proudly proclaims that it is an unthemed issue on its cover, one can’t help but notice repeated themes of servitude as demonstrated in the stories of LaValle, Malerman, Morton, and Kenyon. In all of these stories, folks are under the employ/servitude/spell of someone else.
After a few years of silence, it is exciting to see Weird Tales resurrected again with this issue of great, substantial offerings. It is hoped that the success of this issue will translate into momentum with more issues being published with a bit more regularity. It would be amazing to see Weird Tales resume publication proper and provide a venue for up-and-coming authors of the weird, the macabre, and horror.
Creative Team: Jonathan Mayberry (editorial director), Marvin Kaye (editor), John Harlacher (creative director)
Publisher: Weird Tales
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