Weird Tales Deep Read: February 1936

Weird Tales Deep Read: February 1936

This installment of the Weird Tales Deep Read continues our examination of 1936 with the February issue, which would have ranked among the best ever if not for a terrible cover story that dragged the rating down to a still very respectable 2.1, making it the year’s second best issue. We see some very familiar authors, including C. L. Moore, Paul Ernst, Robert E. Howard (who managed to appear in ten of the eleven ‘36 issues, largely because of two serials), and H.P. Lovecraft (with a reprint).

The best of issue once again comes down to Howard and Moore, and Howard again gets the nod by a hair. Of the 11 stories eight (73%) are set in the United States, and one each (9%) on Mars and an unnamed Jovian moon, China and other Asian territories, and in a fictitious realm. Eight (73%) are set in contemporary times, two in the past (18%) and one (9%) in the future.

Forbes Parkhill (-/5) “Coils of the Silver Serpent” (US, Urban; Contemporary). A beat cop takes on mad zoologist Dr. Cloxton Vroom (really) and his man-eating anaconda in an idiot plot with some of the worst dialog I’ve ever read.

Parhill’s only WT story (in fact, his only piece published in the sf/fantasy genre pulps). It got the cover so Brundage could depict a woman in the coils of a gigantic snake (not one of her better efforts, actually). [No fantastic content. Police. Exotic animal, anaconda. Scientist, mad, zoologist. Murder, by snake. Animal death, snake. Racism, South American indigenous]

C. L. Moore (1) [Northwest Smith] “Yvala” [Mars, unnamed Jovian moon; Future, Far]. Interplanetary romance. Northwest Smith is talked into going to an un-named moon of Jupiter in search of beautiful women for the slave trade, and runs afoul of an alien being that Moore explicitly links to Circe.

She attempts to take Smith’s soul for the nourishment she needs, turning him (almost) into an “animal-wraith.” [SF. Interplanetary travel, Mars to Jovian moon. Jungle setting. Myth, Greek, Circe. Alien, predatory.]

Paul Ernst (2) “Wife of the Dragon-Fly” [US, Contemporary]. An absurd story, which I liked probably more than I should have, about one of those nebulous “scientists” who through sheer will-power sends his mind into a couple of insects to spy on his wife and her purported lover. [Battle of the sexes, husband and wife. Love triangle. Scientist, mad. Mind transference, man into insect, dragon-fly and spider. Death, inadvertent.]

Frank Owen (2) “The Man Who Would Not Die” [China, Macao; Penang; Contemporary]. A man kills another in a gambling fight and is haunted by his conscience. He seemingly runs across his victim again while under the influence of opium, and kills him again. He runs across him a third time, and the “dead man” offers him a violent death or a relatively easy one by drinking poison.

He chooses the poison and dies by suggestion as the “poison” he ingests is harmless. The third man is the brother of the two men he killed. Minor fantasy element. [Death, gun, knife, suggestion, Drug use, opium. Nautical setting. Revenge, harsh but justified.]

Robert E. Howard [Conan] (1) “The Hour of the Dragon” (Part 3 of 5) [Nemedia, Aquilonia, Pointain, Zingara, Argos, Shem, Stygia (fictitious kingdoms). Far past, Hyborian Age (fictitious)] A cabal of plotters raise an evil sorcerer from the dead to help them gain the throne of Nemedia and then depose Conan, the recently crowned Aquilonian king. He goes on a continent spanning journey to win back his throne.

Howard does a masterful job of switching viewpoints to tell a complicated, well-paced tale with a vast array of characters and exotic locales. Though not the last Conan story, it’s a fitting capstone to an amazing career and a sad glimpse of what might have been.

[RFD, via occult object and spell. Occult practitioner, evil sorcerer; good and evil priests; witch, good. Political intrigue, assassination of king. Magic spell, plague causing, earthquake causing. Occult object, jewel power source; mirror, far-seeing; crystal ball, far-seeing; staff, death dealing. Mind control, hypnosis. Battle, armies, multiple. Castle dungeon setting. Animal attack, gray ape, man-eating; giant snake. Sword fights, multiple. Death, by sword, multiple. Telepathy with animals, wolf, eagle. Occult spell, far-seeing events in smoke. Death by torture, the rack. Death by poison, booby-trapped jewel case. Occult being, ghoul, non traditional. Death, by occult spell, multiple. Nautical setting. Press ganging. Shipboard mutiny. Pyramid setting. Combat, occult practitioners. RFD, vampire, non-traditional. RFD, mummy via occult object. Turn back time, via magic spell, attempted. Weather magic, rainstorms, attempted; fog. Human sacrifice, attempted.]

Everil Worrell [as by Lireve Monet] (1) “Norn” [US, town; Contemporary]. A well-written character-heavy story that takes a very untraditional approach to the werewolf myth. It revolves around the relationship of a woman to her strange aunt and has the sensibilities of a fever dream or hallucination more than a coherent narrative. [Werewolf, non-traditional. Occult potion, perhaps. Spiritualism. Death, by occult being, werewolf.]

Loretta Burrough. (1) “A Visitor from Far Away” [US, Connecticut village; Contemporary]. A woman trapped alone in an isolated house by a blizzard learns via a telephoned telegram that her husband, who’s in prison for killing her lover, has just died but she believes he’s in the house with her. Could be interpreted as a psychological rather than fantasy story. [Trapped in house. Love triangle. Battle of the sexes, husband and wife.]

Theodore Tinsley. (2) “The Man on the Platform” [US, urban; Contemporary] A recurring nightmare causes a man to drive to a business trip rather than take a train, but he dies in a car wreck. {Dream, prophetic. Death, car accident.]

Andrew Daw. (-/3) “A Dream of Death” [US, Contemporary] A young man tells his uncle about a recurring dream about the murder of his mother and father that is actually a recovered memory of what he witnessed as a toddler. Predictably, the murderer is his uncle and he avenges his parents’ death. Not badly told, but not much of a surprise. No fantastic content. [Murder, by gun and strangulation. Inheritance scheme. Revenge, harsh but just.]

H. P. Lovecraft. (3) “The Temple” [Atlantic Ocean; Past, near (1917 from 1925)] Told from the viewpoint of a German U-boat commander on a mission to sink civilian ships. Insanity strikes the crew as they may be followed by the corpses of civilians they murdered (as well as a flock of strange dolphins, a plot thread that goes nowhere). The crew is whittled down by insanity, execution for mutiny, and an unexplained explosion in the engine room that ultimately sinks the sub, Eventually only the captain is left, but not before they discover the ruins of an ancient city on the ocean floor that may be Atlantis? Over-long and over vague, with no real pay-off. [WW I setting. Navy, German, U-boat. Anti-German sentiment. Nautical setting. Atlantic ocean. Inanity. Mutiny. Death by explosion, gun, execution. Suicide, jumping overboard. Lost city, sunken ruins. Undersea excursion, via diving suit.]

Our previous Deep Reads include:

Weird Tales: May 1923
Weird Tales, 
June, 1923
Weird Tales, 
March 1933
Weird Tales, 
July 1933
Weird Tales, 
August 1934
Weird Tales, 
October 1934
Weird Tales, 
November 1934
Weird Tales, January 1936
Weird Tales, July 1936
Weird Tales, January 1945

John Jos. Miller’s latest publication is: “Fatal Error” with Victor Milan in Joker Moon July, 2021 Tor Books. . Next up: Death Draws Five. Tor Books, November, 2021 .9883

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