Sunday, January 20, 2008

William Crawford & Marvel Tales

Be warned, Lovecraft could be virtiolic behind his acquaintances' backs. Here are some things I found in his letters, which really puts a different spin on the venerable and collectible Marvel tales. After that, some more notes I found hither and yon.
[26 April 1934 HPL to RH Barlow] So you've received the new Unusual-Marvel! I'm rather eager to see it. As I told you, {William} Crawford sent me sheets of my Celephais - with about 12 misprints. Hope he'll be able to keep up the venture despite obstacles.

[21 July 1934 HPL to RH Barlow] I haven't any unbroken copies of Marvel Tales. Brother Bill still owes me a couple, I fancy, but all that have come have been folded. I hereby authorise you to have my due copies sent to you - unfolded. Tell Bill I direct him to send them to you in that form!

[24 July 1934 HPL to RH Barlow] Well - a lot of unfolded Marvel tales have just come, & I'm sending you the best of the lot under seperate cover. Meanwhile #2 has appeared - infinitely better than #1 both in contents and appearance.

[8 August 1934 HPL to RH Barlow] Crawford reports accident to press which will impair the impression of MT #3.

[20 November 1934 HPL to RH Barlow] New Marvel Tales came - the only distinguished contribution is Keller's, which has genuine atmosphere & tension.

[15 January 1935 HPL to RH Barlow] By the way - here's a screed from hill-billy Crawford which may amuse you. {Lovecraft nicknamed William Crawford, "Hill-Billy"} So he done ben to hah-skule {high school}, arter all - & l'arned to hate city-slicker eddication thar! I'm answering helpfully, since it will be to our advantage to keep MT at as tolerable level as possible. Bill's failure to get the point of Doc Keller's {Doctor David H. Keller} "Dead Woman" is pretty damn good.

[10 February 1935 HPL to RH Barlow] Hill-Billy is a rare character - sorry I didn't save his two latest bulletins to show you. He's beginning to yield on the literature point - says he's lately tended to turn from science fiction to the stories in Good Housekeeping! Poor devil - he's mashed the fingers of his right hand in the press, & is facing a big medical bill - incidently having to write with his left hand. Hence the delay (no unprecedented thing) in Marvel Tales. He's just launched a new argument - in favor of a race wholly without emotions of any kind. I've suggested to him that such a race could never evolve beyond a very primitive stage, since there would be no urge for development after the satisfaction of basic instincts. To this Billy replied that he'd allow the race just one emotion - a desire for improvement. I've now asked him how a being could form any concept of improvement if he had no emotions wherewith to shape a concept of preference beyond that of survival & physical comfort. That, I'm afraid, will rather floor Billy! As to whether it's worth stringing him along - I think it is, because it may open the pages of MT to yarns which would otherwise (like Keller's "Dead Woman") be rejected. Not that I think Bill is real promising in the sense that {Duane} Rimel & {Emil} Petaja are - he seems to have a certain callow dullness (as witness his failure to understand what the "Dead Woman" was about) as distinguished from mere ignorance. He's a comic character at best. But he means well, I fancy. Good luck to him!

[16 March 1935 HPL to RH Barlow] Speaking of emminent aesthetes - Hill-Billy has another MT out at last, & has jsut asked me whether I'd consider taking the editorship of the FF {Fantasy Fan} if he should decide to revive it ... {elipsis original} purchasing the franchise & good-will from Leedle-Sharlie {Charles D. Hornig}. Yeah - I certainly need another non-paying activity to keep me busy! But if that egg ever did revive & really issue our departed friend, I'd take the job. A very safe thing to promise - irrespective of ability to perform! Hil-Billy also speaks of issuing my "Mts of Madness" & "Innsmouth" in book form. Okay, Bill - but somehow books by me never seem to get issued. ... Billy ... in his latest ...says,"I probably will never be able to appreciate literature. I can "get it" [Oh, yeah?], but I just can't appreciate it. When I want to read something deep, I think of a text-book ... when I want to be amused or entertained, I think of 'pulp or light reading. The stories I get in Literature & Life practically put me to sleep - & I don't think - conceitedly maybe - that it's because I'm entirely a light-thinker, either, as I spend all my spare time, you might say, speculating on this or that." {Atta boy, Billy, but be careful not to wear out the ol' cerebrum!] ... ... Hill-Billy's new MT isn't bad as one might expect - that is, it contains nothing outrageously crude, On the other hand there is nothing of genuine distinction. A little story by Jogn Beynon Harris - "The Cathedral Crypt" - is probably the leading feature. My "Sarnath" is badly misprinted in spots.

25 March 1935 HPL to RH Barlow] Regarding Hill-Billy's proposition - it seems to me the logical for Miss {C L} Moore to do is to let him have some of her junk if he wants to print it, though at the same time saving her choice items for the Cassia Caxtons to immortalize. ... ... Hill-Billy sho' does aim fer to make money - enough, perchance to keep him in chewin'-'baccy - with his sundry ventures, but he'll never do it. Por devil - I've just given him a fatherly lecture on the insanity of trying to issue 3 magazines when he can't float one! I treid MT at a news agency the other day, & they may possibly give it a chance on the local stands. But it's pretty feeble junk.

I found this blurb by a bibliopole (I.e. bookseller}.HOWARD , ROBERT E. THE GARDEN OF FEAR in MARVEL TALES, July-August, 1934 Vol. 1, No. 2. Everett, Pennsylvania: Fantasy Publications, 1934. First printing. A very scarce and fragile issue, primarily notable for containing the first appearance of Howard's The Garden of Fear, the first story in the James Allison series. This second issue of the short-lived Marvel Tales series, published by William L. Crawford (who also owned a printing press) had 3 variant cover s - in different colors and on different paper stock: this copy is orange with a green woodcut illustration and black lettering superimposed on the illustration. Mike Ashley in his article on Marvel Tales describes the importance of Crawford as an editor who tried to shape the future of SF, and as one who was able to prove that there were writers in science fiction who were willing to challenge the establishment and break out of the rut of formula fiction (Tymm and Ashley, editors Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines pp 401-404) Other stories in this issue are Synthetic by Harl Vincent, The Dark Beasts by Frank B. Long, Jr., Antidote by Robert M. Hyatt, The Torch of Life by Joe W. Skidmore and A Horror in Profile by Wilfred Blanch Talman, plus editorial scribblings and poems. Illustrated. 60 pp.

As to why HPL called the first edition of Marvel Tales, "Unusual-Marvel", I found this by another bibliopole:Crawford, William & Eshbach, Lloyd ANNOUNCING UNUSUAL STORIESWILLIAM CRAWFORD'S FIRST PUBLICATION ANNOUNCING UNUSUAL STORIES, Everett, Pa, N.d ( 1933 ), first edition, one page folded to make four, a fine copy. An advertizing brochure announcing a new magazine being 2 pages of editorial text, 1 page of "THE TITAN" by P. Schuyler Miller and a full page illustration by G. Huey. UNUSUAL STORIES (which most apparently later became MARVEL TALES ) in fact did not appear under this name until 1935, after the appearance of MARVEL TALES. Furthermore, It is now revealed that this, the first publication of William Crawford, had its' 2 pages of editorial text mentioned above actually written by Lloyd Eshbach, thereby linking these two

One more blurb I found: William Crawford had a long history of issuing semi-professional magazines, starting in 1934/5 when he published Unusual Stories and Marvel Tales, printed one page at a time on his own letterpress. Fantasy Book was his first post-war title and was followed by a digest format professional magazine called Spaceway in the early 50's. Spaceway was revived in 1969 and died again after 4 issues. He then published another semi-pro mag called Witchcraft and Sorcery which had 6 widely spaced issues. ( ).

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