March 29, 2023

Weird Tales: The Zebra Run

In the early 1980s, Zebra Books published a four “issue” anthology series bearing the title Weird Tales and the stylized logo familiar to fans of the pulp greats who were published in The Unique Magazine. Weird Tales has been called the magazine that never dies, but most would agree it’s had a largely beleaguered existence since the late 1950s. It has appeared at various times in a newsstand digest format, a full-size traditional magazine format, and — perhaps the most successful post-Golden Era run of the magazine — a very nice perfect bound magazine during the 1980s and early 1990s.

Lin Carter edited the books featured in this post. And they are just that: mass market paperbacks. Nonetheless they were treated — editorially speaking — as a continuation of the magazine published most recently by Sam Moskowitz in 1973-74. Those were tagged as issues in Volume 47 on the masthead; these were published as issues in Volume 48.

Carter was not only an author of science fiction and fantasy, but a student of weird fiction and editor of the long running Ballantine Adult Fantasy series and Flashing Swords, so he was a good candidate to pick up the mantle. These issues featured all the usual suspects, plus some modern scribes of weird fiction that fit in with the crowd. Carter seems to have done his best to find unpublished or lesser known works by the greats to appear alongside work by a new bevy of authors. Robert Weinberg is listed as an associate in the credits. Weinberg not only came to own the Weird Tales trademark, but was a scholar of such fiction in his own right. No doubt the combination of Carter and Weinberg made it easier to get unpublished “trunk” stories and arrange for posthumous collaborations on unfinished tales by the greats left behind as fragments or notes. It’s important to note there was another associate — Roy Torgeson. Torgeson had a successful run of SF anthologies with Zebra in the late 1970s through early 1980s; Chrysalis ran for ten installments from 1977-83 (SFF). The Science Fiction Encyclopedia notes that “Torgeson’s attempts to gain rights to Amazing Stories and Weird Tales were unsuccessful” which is cryptic. I’m not sure what to make of that, except that he must have tried to obtain rights to publish magazines or anthologies using those names, in which case that entry seems partially inaccurate.

In the end, Zebra published only four “issues” between 1980-83. In his editorial notes in #4’s “The Eyrie,” Carter writes as if he has every intention of continuing on with future books. Reasons why the series ended are unknown to me and perhaps lost to time, but one may presume that Weird Tales was a niche market that did not reach a large enough number of readers to justify continuing the run. In sum, it’s safe to assume the more pedestrian tastes of the reading public at large, and the commensurate economics of publishing this as a mass market title, made it a challenging long term proposition.

The cover scans below are from my personal library, but I am selling some books to downsize. Please check out the Realms of Night eBay page for the latest sales. Save us as a favorite seller for updates.

Christopher Fulbright

Christopher Fulbright is the author of short stories, novellas, and full-length novels of fantasy and horror. His short stories have appeared in many venues--webzines, magazines, and anthologies--since 1993. Fulbright received the Richard Laymon President's Award in 2008 from the HWA, and his short stories have received honorable mentions in "The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror" and "Best Horror of the Year." He is a former journalist turned technical writer, an unrepentant horror fan, and owner/webmaster of Realms of Night.

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