Ah. And I am proven correct yet again.
Most recently, you may recall the post I did largely on the topic of Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright where I noted —reviving the term from a debate in the letters column of The Cimmerian — that finally Farny got “shitcanned” from the job.
One younger guy poking around in this same literary history wrote to ask if I had any proof that in fact Farny was fired. And I told him, honestly, no — or not that I could place hands on, some Pink Slip hidden away in a file. But I may well have gotten the impression from the many hours of conversation I had with Donald Wandrei or possibly E. Hoffmann Price — still, no Pink Slip.
No, my call was strictly litcrit — what I am known for, after all — where the circumstances and psychology are weighed, and after processing in the old dome, bingo. I have thought for many years that Wright was fired. Seems obvious enough.
And, I told the guy, if I don’t have any hard “proof” that Farny was fired, did he have any proof that he was not fired?
He said he’d keep an eye peeled, and just let me know the other day about this quote from a letter Otto Binder sent to Jack Darrow, March 10 1940, which is referenced in John Locke’s The Thing’s Incredible! The Secret Origins of Weird Tales — as I skimmed rapidly through that book I had missed it.
Otto Binder (pronounced Bender) was an active pulp fictioneer in that era, Adam Link, Robot and so on, but here he comes in as an assistant in the Otis Adelbert Kline Literary Agency. He said:
Wright was cold-bloodedly fired from Weird Tales, because of circulation drop. It’s being carried on by McIlwraith. Wright is hit pretty hard, and our gang has pledged to boycott the mag. If Wright succeeds in getting another publisher interested in backing a new weird mag, we’ll submit only to him. It’s all we can do for one of the best and most liked editors in our field. With Wellman, Kuttner, Hamilton, Quinn, Williamson, and others not submitting to Weird, I’m thinking McIlwraith will have to print blank pages.
I think that quote is blunt enough most people ought to understand it. Fired. Cold-bloodedly. After relocating from Chicago to New York for the job.
Of course, where exactly the Kline Agency might have sold the fiction their clients were aiming toward Weird Tales is a big question. I believe that the vast bulk of Seabury Quinn’s vasty bulk of pulp writing hit print in Weird Tales, so in that scenario would Quinn have gone along with the plot or broken ranks? Yet another tantalizing What If! scenario.
Wright hesitated to use new and longer fiction by H. P. Lovecraft, so HPL lost steam, so HPL wasn’t making extra money for food, and so he died in 1937 of intestinal cancer. A few tweaks to the timeline and Farny could have had HPL spearheading a legion of young apprentices in the pulp — which he was doing already by the mid-30s. Robert Bloch. Kuttner. Fritz Leiber was about to jump in, too. I wonder what that crew might have done if Lovecraft had lived, given what they did do?
Perhaps Wright wouldn’t have been unceremoniously kicked to the kerb.