Sad literary news today – Wildside Press is selling Weird Tales to Marvin Kaye, who also intends to edit the magazine. That means editor Ann VanderMeer, the person most responsible for this magazine's amazing transformation in recent years, is out, along with her entire staff. During Ann's tenure Weird Tales won one Hugo Award for Best Semi-Prozine – at the time being one of only 4 magazines not named Locus to win that award in 25 years – along with chalking up another three nominations. Ann also showed that a venerable magazine like Weird Tales could be both respectful to its literary history while also embracing exciting new authors and movements, most significantly around the New Weird.
One reason Weird Tales was so successful under Ann's guidance is the vision she has for fiction, a vision she strongly applied to the magazine. And it is this loss of vision which makes me now worry about the future of Weird Tales. While Marvin Kaye has a long editorial history, he is mainly known in this genre for editing reprint anthologies (along with some original anthologies and, of course, his own fiction writing).
However, there's a big difference between editing magazines and book anthologies. With both reprint and original anthologies, you are dealing with known qualities – in the case of reprint anthologies with already published stories, while original anthologies tend to feature well-known and established authors. Publishers encourage this last point because big names on a cover sell more books.
With a magazine, though, you are not only looking for stories by big names you are also combing through the slushpile for exciting new voices which mesh with your editorial vision. In fact, this is one of the most important services magazines provide to the genre field – bringing new writers to the attention of the public. This doesn't mean editing anthologies isn't also hard work. It most definitely is. But the skill sets are very different.
Which brings me back to what I mentioned earlier about Ann's vision. Without a strong editorial vision a magazine can easily founder in the marketplace. Unfortunately, my take on Kaye's vision, which is based on the type of stories he's published in his anthologies over the years, is of someone in love with storytelling as it used to exist. The fact that his first issue as editor of Weird Tales will be "Cthulhu-themed" supports this view.
I'm not alone in this thinking. On Twitter, John Joseph Adams was asked what he knew about Kaye and replied "Not much, but I would expect WT to revert to the magazine it was 30-40 years ago." Warren Ellis echoed this by saying that Kaye is "clearly very retro in his tastes."
Let me be clear that there is nothing wrong with enjoying and loving the best stories from previous years. I grew up on stories from the Golden Age of SF and I'll always love them. However, that doesn't mean I want to read new SF stories written as if our genre was stuck in the '40s and '50s. Likewise with Weird Tales. While the magazine was the original home of Cthulhu, I'd rather read exciting new stories of the bizarre than revisit the glories of the magazine's past.
Perhaps I'm wrong, but I believe this editorial change will prove to be a major mistake for Weird Tales.