Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lovecraft on Otis Adelbert Kline

{30 Octobeer 1932 HPL to Barlow] My Dear Mr. Barlow:- ... The history of "The Buccaneers of Venus" is surely amusing. I probably shan't read it - for I never seem able to keep awake over one of Otis Adelbert's laboured, mechanical penny-thrillers - but it can't be much worse than the similar junk of Burroughs. [O Fortunate Floridian.] [Note: In 1932 THE BUCCANEERS OF VENUS was serialized in WEIRD TALES].

Lovecraft had a peculiar and descriminating outlook on storytelling, and often had back biting comments to make about his peers. We wonder if these were aesthetic or motivated by ulterior motives.

(24 October 1931 HPL to D. Wandrei] Thanks for the good word about "Mts. of Madness", but I guess Brother Farnsworth is adamant on that. He has conventional notions of proportioning the stuff in his magazine {Weird Tales}, & never breaks rules except for such favourites as Seabury Quinn & Otis Adelbert Kline. [Mysteries of Time and Spirit]

Sooo, Mr. Lovecraft is steaming over his rejection, and bristling over perceived favoritism when he believes he has a superior story.

E Hoffamn Price tells a little more of the background. [Otis Adelbert Kline: A Memoriam by E Hoffman Price] Mid-summer of 1926, I went to Chicago to meet Farnsworth Wright, who with Weird Tales had but recently moved from Indianapolis, Ind. ... Wright presently phoned Kline saying, "Come down as soon as you can. E. Hoffmann Price is here." // ...Kline was appreciably above my five foot seven plus a fraction. Though seven years and two days my senior - he was born July 1, 1891 and already showing signs of putting on weight ... // {After meeting Kline's family, and imbibing on high quality smuggled liquor - it was prohibition - } Farnsworth Wright and the business manager of Weird Tales, Bill Sprenger, bailed out.

Kline tells a bit of the story from his perspective. [Writing the Fantastic Story By Otis Adelbert Kline From The Writer ~ January 1930] ...When Weird Tales came into being, I tried it {Grandon of Terra, but the name was later changed to The Planet of Peril} on this magazine. Edwin Baird, the editor liked it, but finally, after holding it several months, rejected it because of its length. He suggested that I try Argosy-All Story, but I didn't do it then. I let it lie around for a long time. Every once in a while I would dig it out of the file and read it over...

It's clear that Kline had a cordial working relationship with the editors at Weird Tales. Especially after Henneberger becoming more remote with Weird Tales, Baird and then Farnsworth were tougher on Lovecraft. Farnsworth often rejected Lovecraft, and Lovecraft bristled at this.

Lovecraft may have seemed to be aloof and uncaring about the pulp and fantasy market, but his letters show that he not only was keenly aware of every detail of the writers, fans, editors, and publications, but knew intimate, insider, details.

[5 Spetmebr 1935 HPL to Barlow] ...Meeting {in NY} Tuesday night was rather quiet ... Allan Kline (son of Otis Adelbert - now living in N.Y. as papa's agent ... *

Yes, HPL kept close tabs.

Below is an anedote from Hoffman Price emended with a note by the editor of ERB. It's likely that Lovecraft did NOT know of this anecdote, despite his rancor at Wright's partiality to Kline. **

* {Hoffman Price says - "Buster" -- Allan the son, colored very much like his father}.
** That I {E Hoffman Price} am in mid-1958 asked to write of a man whose fiction career ended in 1933 suggests that during his day as an author, he made a deep impression. Let me give an example: Farnsworth Wright, telling me of one of the many crises which had promised to finish Weird Tales, said that but for the drawing power of several of the steady contributors, the magazine would never have pulled through. He did not give any one of this handful preeminence over the others, knowing how silly such discrimination would have been.

In effect, he said, "This one was not producing at the time, and That One hadn't quite arrived. But Otis had reached a new peak of popularity. We'd been through previous bad stretches, and knew just about how long a circulation slump would last. A six-parter would do it, and Otis gave me a synopsis, then set to work."

"Ordinarily, I will not feature a serial until the entire MSS is in my hands," Wright continued, "but this was an emergency. So, I published several parts before the final installments were done. Pneumonia almost did it! For Otis, and for us."

"The devil you say!"

Wright nodded. "You never heard? He never mentioned it?"

"This is all new."

"In hospital, Otis finished that yarn. How he did it, no one knows, least of all he himself. He was like a zombi, functioning automatically. He lived through it and so did Weird Tales.

"It's a wonder they let him do it."

"They had nothing to say about it. Something drove Otis. He would not be stopped, and he was not stopped."

My best recollection is that the story was The Bride of Osiris.

[{ERB's} Ogden note: Looking through an index of Kline tales, The Bride of Osiris is listed as a 3 part serial. The only 6 part serials featured in Weird Tales were Tam, Son of Tiger and Buccaneers of Venus, both were published at the height of his career; but Buccaneers of Venus is reputed to have been refused by Argosy because they preferred to us Pirates of Venus instead. However, the real reason that Buccaneers of Venus appeared in Weird Tales instead of Argosy with the rest of his Venus novels, is probably due to the account above rendered by Mr. Price. On the other hand, it might have been Tam, Son of Tiger.]

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