Weird Tales, January 1945. Cover by Margaret Brundage
This time we’re jumping ahead in our deep read of the Unique Magazine, to the January 1945 issue. The old guard has largely changed. Howard has been dead for almost six years, Lovecraft out-lived him less than a year. C. L. Moore hadn’t published in WT since 1939, Clark Ashton Smith longer. (Reprints not considered,) That doesn’t mean there were no familiar names. Seabury Quinn, August Derleth, Edmond Hamilton, and others continued to contribute. New writers, like Ray Bradbury, were coming on. Though the Golden Age was definitely over, that doesn’t mean the magazine didn’t publish quality material.
This issue grades out at a respectable 2.25, because it largely avoided mediocre and out-right poor offerings. Even Harold Lawlor managed a decent tale this time around. The Quinn was the best of the issue. Though modern day sensibilities might find issue with it, it was quite advanced for its time.
Stats for the issue: Eight stories (one had a split temporal setting). Location: US (6; 76%), UK and Crete (1; 12% each). Setting: Past (1; 11%), Contemporary (8; 89%). The Quinn (of course) is part of a series, as well as the Wellman. (22%)
Another important note: This issue had the last original Margaret Brundage cover, marking the passing of another of the greats from the magazine (it would be reprinted as the cover for the November 1953 issue).
Hamilton, Edmond (2) “Priestess of the Labyrinth.” [Crete, Contemporary & 2000 BC] American fighter piolet shot down over Crete during WW II parachutes into Knossos where he’s pursued by a Nazi patrol into the Labyrinth. Transported to ancient Crete, he meets Daedalus and his daughter. The Nazis make a deal with King Minos to provide him with subjects to transform into beast men, like he’d done to the Minotaur, whom Daedfalus has given sanctuary in the Labyrinth. Daedalus sacrifices himself and the Minotaur as they collapse the Labyrinth. The aviator and Daedalus’ daughter return to the present using the wings Daedalus had invented. [SF. Time travel, via geometry. Ancient Crete, Knossos, Labyrinth. Medical experimentation on humans. Minotaur, via genetic manipulation. Flight, artificial wings. Myth, Greek. WW II. Nazis.]
Miller, P. Schuyler. (2) “Ship-in-a-Bottle.” [US, town. Contemporary] A man returns to the town where he’d grown up to re-visit an enchanted curio shop and play a curious chess game with its proprietor. [Curio shop, enchanted. Occult object, ship in a bottle. Occult being.]
Derleth, August. (2) : “Inverness Cape, The” (UK, Contemporary) A curse is placed upon an Inverness cape a man steals from his uncle’s estate. The cape compels him to commit murder – until it kills him. [Enchanted object, garment, cape. Indian (Asian) magic. Murder. Death by enchanted object.]
Harding, Allison V. (4) “Revolt of the Trees.” [US, small town. Contemporary] A reporter is unenthusiastic about being assigned a feature article on trees, so he gets drunk and wanders into a forest where he has a vision of an invasion by animated trees who are angry that they’re scheduled to be chopped down. His body is found torn apart. Repetitious and too long. [Occult beings, sentient and mobile trees. Journalist. Death, by occult being.]
Quinn, Seabury (1) [Jules de Grandin] “Green God’s Ring, The.” [US, NYC, urban. Contemporary] Perfectly healthy groom drops dead at the altar. Fortunately Jules de Grandin is there to investigate. It seems that the bride’s previous betrothed was a Hindu, though they’d broken up when she realized he was rather more demanding than she’d bargained for. De Grandin uses a Buddhist chant to defeat the Hindu and his protector, Lord Siva, and frees her. Though not entirely feminist by today’s standards, rather unusual for its day. Quinn gives a reciprocal shout-out to John Thunstone. [Death, by occult means. Hindu myth, Siva. Buddhist myth, spell. Curio shop, enchanted. Enchanted object, ring. Feminist themes.]
Wellman, Manly Wade (2) [John Thunstone] “Thorne on the Threshold” [US. NYC; Contemporary] Occult investigator John Thunstone battles an occultist who uses beings from an alien dimensions to alter his appearance, making him strange and domineering to his flock, as well as telepathically dredge information from their minds for his use. Somewhat confusing because Wellman also drags voodoo spells into the narrative. Thurstone sends an “in case of my death” letter to fellow occultist Jules de Grandin. [Voodoo curse. Occult investigator. Occult practitioner. Alien dimensions. Aliens, other dimensions. Confinement in asylum.]
Bradbury, Ray (3) “Poems, The.” [US, rural. Contemporary] A poet discovers he has the ability to write powerful poems that they suck the essence from his subjects which cease to exist, except on paper. Unbothered by this, he expunges animals and then people from existence. Determined to write his greatest poem about the entire universe, his wife tricks him into writing one about the valley in which they live, saving the world. They continue to exist, happy and carefree forever, on paper. Startling concept, but over-wrought execution results in a curiously detached reading experience. [Poet, mad. Matter destroyed, mentally]
Lawlor, Harold. (2) “Tatiana.” [US urban, Contemporary] An exotically beautiful girl shows up on the doorstep of twin brothers. The dominant one takes an immediate dislike to her, she seduces the weaker. When the dominant brother insists she leave, the other conceives a hatred for him that drives him to murder in an unspecified manner. The girl is never found and the weak brother is put in an asylum where he writes this narrative. [Murder, fratricide. Occult entity, unknown. Precognition. Matter created, mentally. Confinement in asylum.]
Our previous Deep Reads include:
John Jos. Miller’s latest publication is: “Fatal Error” with Vic Milan in Joker Moon (Tor Books). Next UP: DEATH DRAWS FIVE (Tor Books, November, 2021) www.facebook.com/john.j.miller .9883