Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Rats Spread...

Earlier, I recalled how Hugo the Rat ripped off his writers. Unfortunately, I have to share the same about the far more beloved Weird Tales.

E. Hoffman Price, in his The Book of the Dead, shared a conversation between Price and Robert Howard's father, Dr. I. M. Howard, in April 1934:
"[Farnsworth Wright] and [William Sprenger] and the rest of those sons of bitches are no dealing rightly with Robert. How are they treating you?" 
"Doctor, we are all getting screwed. No one is discriminating against Bob. Business really is bad, damn bad. Well...yes sir, Wright and Sprenger are getting their pay checks regularly." 
"Then why don't those bastards see that you and Robert get paid regularly," he demanded. 
Dr. I. M. Howard's bedside manner was superb: a patient would be afraid not to recover.
"Editors and business managers walk out if they're not paid. Writer who don't do likewise aren't showing good judgement. Bob has a lot of good markets. All I have is crime stuff. When I get into a few other fields, I am through with Weird Tales.
A good many year after this dialog, I learned from an employee of the bank which had handled W. T. funds from the beginning and on until another outfit bought the magazine, that the publisher had money by the ream. The outfit had always pleaded poverty, and had found "The Great Depression" a handy device to exploit writers who could not, or fancied that they could not write salable yarns for any other than W.T. I learned from another source that when R.E.H. died, the "Unique Magazine" owed him $1300. It is only fair to add that the most W.T. owned me at any time was never in excess of $300. This peak was achieved only because of a two-parter, and a short. They were not favoring me. When their indebtedness reached a certain point, they got no more scripts from me. My production went to cash customers. Belatedly, Howard, on his own initiative, adopted the same approach.
While Weird Tales' chiseling did not reach to the same six-figure extent as Hugo Gernsback, Wright and Sprenger stiffed a close friend and occasional editor for the magazine in Price. No wonder many writers tried to break through into the more lucrative slicks.


  1. Nathan,

    Why did they do this? Why be such skinflint jerks?

  2. No wonder most of the writers kept submitting to other magazines. I wonder if Dorothy McIlwraith was any better. It would certainly flip the "common knowledge" that she ruined WT on its head.

  3. I hadn't heard that bit about the publisher of Weird Tales having so much cash. Thanks for the info.