There was a little SF&F milestone recently with the publication of issue 349 of Weird Tales – the magazine of the delightfully, oddly fantastical, which has given a home across the years to Ray Bradbury, Michael Moorcock. Robert E Howard. H.P. Lovecraft and even Tennessee Williams (yes, really), turned 85. And I’m glad to say it isn’t resting on its reputation but forging ahead to embrace new talent as well as the finest of established writers, with a good bit of help from fiction editor Ann VanderMeer who has been actively looking for new authors. I’ll confess a bias upfront – Ann and husband Jeff VanderMeer are friends of mine, but even leaving that side I’m pretty pleased with the way Weird Tales is shaping up – this anniversary issue had work from Michael Moorcock (still a god-like author to me, has been since I was a lad) and Tanith Lee (who still crafts deliciously seductive, Gothic prose without ever giving in to the purple excesses of the genre) but also new writers like Ramsey Shehadeh (his short story ‘Creature’ was a lovely, odd twist on the normally predictable post-apocalyptic road).
As part of the anniversary edition there was also much fun to be had in a feature entitled The 85 Weirdest Storytellers of the Past 85 Years, which crossed different media, decades and styles. Of course everyone will have a favourite creator of the weird who they thought should have made such a list and didn’t, but even so a weird creators list which embraces Douglas Adams, Laurie Anderson, Bjork, Alice Cooper, William S Burroughs, Octavia Butler, Kate Bush, David Cronenberg, Lon Chaney (Snr), Tim Burton and Bill Plympton among its number has to be interesting. And in that list as well as science fiction and fantasy visionaries there’s a good smattering of some exceptional comics creators – Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Robert Crumb, Charles Addams, Steve Ditko, Edward Gorey, Gary Larson, Dave McKean, Grant Morrison and Osamu Tezuka (check the Weird Tales site where they are posting one per day from the list). Quite spooky how many of the singers, writers, film-makers, comics creators and others in this list are also the same who populate my bookshelves, CD and DVD racks… Gives me a warm feeling deep down to know that I may be a freak and a geek but so are a lot of others. And we’ve got good taste. So happy belated birthday to Weird Tales and best wishes for many more.