In addition to a new look, a new approach, and a new website, the venerable fiction magazine Weird Tales has a new contest in honor of their upcoming 85th anniversary: Name the 85 weirdest storytellers ever! Although known for featuring some of the masters of supernatural and strange fiction, like H.P. Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury, Weird Tales also published Tennessee Williams' first story. Now, that is truly weird.
Given all of this weirdness, I thought I'd call up editorial/creative director Stephen H. Segal and put him on the spot. Just who would he say was his choice for the weirdest storyteller ever?
"Since we're running a weird storytelling contest, not a weird writer contest, the one who really set my imagination afire was Laurie Anderson. I remember flipping channels somewhere around age thirteen and catching sight, on PBS, of this person wearing a weird white full-head mask and talking, slowly, through a deep voice-altering filter, about 'ones and zeroes.' I was hooked, and I've followed her storytelling career ever since, from song-poems about 'Strange Angels' through her stint as NASA's official resident artist, to her multimedia re-imagining of Moby Dick."
I'm not sure anything can really top that answer, to be honest. But if you're interested in learning more about Weird Tales, now subtitled "Gothic Fantasy and Phantasmagoria for the 21st Century," pick up a copy of their new Weird Tales anthology to sample a whole new generation of strange storytelling. And, if you want a good nonfiction book on the subject of Weird Tales, Robert Weinberg's The Weird Tales Story gives a comprehensive history of the magazine, with chapters on the writers, stories, editors, and much more.
As for my vote for weirdest storyteller ever, I've read so many kooks, ne'er-do-wells, wackos, eccentrics, yahoos, and crazies that it's really difficult to pick a favorite--although the brilliant Alasdair Gray would definitely be in the running.
Odd tale-spinners aside, Weird Tales has always been quite vivid in my memory because I associate it with something macabre in real life. As a young 20-something writer, I was falsely diagnosed with a fatal illness the day I got one of my first professional short story sales--from Weird Tales! I remember having a very strange few hours before the nurse called to correct the mistake, during which I kept thinking "I'm going to die! I made it into Weird Tales! I'm going to die! I made it into Weird Tales!"
Now that's a weird story...