Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review: Weird Tales, July 1953

Welcome to my review of the third (and final) issue of Weird Tales I recently added to my collection (first review here, second review here). Let's check out the July, 1953 issue, shall we?

"L'Affaire Verenekin" by David Eynon is a quick tale wherein a Russian officer narrates how he attempted to spare a young man from his firing squad, with disastrous results. It's a one-point story and it hits that point square on the head.

"The House in the Valley" by August Derleth. I'm not a fan of H.P. Lovecraft but I have even less tolerance for his imitators. This tale is nothing more than a Lovecraft homage, written by someone who didn't quite understand Lovecraft's style (yes, I know Derleth wrote a lot of Lovecraftian material - perhaps it read better elsewhere). The story is full of references to Lovecraft's universe but can't really tell a story on its own merits (it's something of a sequel to "the Shadow Over Innsmouth"). It involves a man purchasing an old manor and having weird dreams which gradually lead him to realize his house has seen terrible deeds done on behalf of the Old Ones. Derleth recycles concepts and dialogue from Lovecraft's stories, but fails to get across the dread and existential terror of Lovecraft's own works.

"Slaughter House" by Richard Matheson; as if to say, "here's how it's doene" we have a haunted house story by Matheson which is far superior in delivering a growing sense of danger and paranoia; the one weakness is the epilogue, where the back story of the ghost is revealed - the back story could have probably been used more effectively earlier in the story.

"The Source of It" by Glen Malin; told in a diary format much like Nikolai Gogol's Diary of a Madman, the narrator claims to have the power to see the "shadows" which control people's thoughts and tries to find "the source of it," the being who has enslaved everyone's will. Again, a well-done story of paranoia - it can be done.

"The Missing Room" by Lyn Venable; strangely, this is a science fiction tale about an alien trying to lure people into his spaceship by disguising it as a house for rent. He might possibly be the most incompetent alien invader in the history of fiction.

"On the Elevator" by Joseph Payne Brennan; a figure seems to appear from nowhere to ride an elevator and soon a dead man is found in the elevator car; it's a brief story and doesn't have much space to establish itself.

"Dread Summons" by Paul Ernst; first printed in Weird Tales in 1937, this concerns a vindictive man buying up his dead rival's house so he can destroy it, but during his inspection of the premises he idly mocks the dead man over the home's switchboard - and this seems to rouse his rival from the grave. Pretty good, I can see why it was dug out for another go.

"The Sea-Witch" by Nictzin Dyalhis; an anthropologist meets a young lady from the sea who is descended from an infamous Norse sea witch and believes he's the reincarnation of her ancestor's lover. It's an odd story of romance and vengeance, much lighter fantasy than the sort of dark material usually found in Weird Tales.

The poem "House of Life" by Dorothy Quick also appeared.

Derleth aside, this issue had a consistency the others didn't; none of the stories are as good as the Bloch tales I covered in the last two entries, but they aren't as forgettable as the other entries. Let's call this a win.

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