Weird Tales’ 85 Weirdest

I’m never up to speed when I’m reading and sometimes read magazines a long time after publication. This was the case with last year’s Weird Tales. I’ve found these magazines are easier to deal with while working out so I’m reading many after the fact. Weird TalesMarch/April 2008 issue listed 85 of the weirdest storytellers in the last 85 years, celebrating the magazine’s (of course) 85th anniversary. That means they started in 1923. Imagine how the world and the concept of fantasy and the weird has changed in that time. It’s a lifetime.

This list of storytellers covers everything from writers, musicians, filmmakers, artists to entertainers. I found that I knew most of the names on the list (that has a short paragraph or two of description) and started thinking about who wasn’t on the list that I would have added. Of course the magazine went with who they thought should fit in there, plus recommendations from the readers. Their list has these names (the first list those I know and the second, those I hadn’t heard of):

  • Douglas Adams, Charles Addams, Laurie Anderson, J.G. Ballard, Nick Bantock, Clive Barker, Art Bell, Bjork, David Bowie, Ray Bradbury, William S. Burroughs, Tim Burton, Kate Bush, Octavia Butler, Angela Carter, Nick Cave, Lon Chaney Sr., Cirque du Soleil, Joel and Ethan Coen, Alice Cooper, David Cronenberg, R. Crumb, Roald Dahl, Salvador Dali, Samuel R. Delany, Philip K. Dick, Steve Ditko, Harlan Ellison, M.C. Escher, Neil Gaiman, Terry Gilliam, Edward Gorey, Gunther von Hagens, Jim  Henson, Robert E. Howard (the one I don’t agree should be on this list), Shirley Jackson, Franz Kafka, Frida Kahlo, Andy Kaufman, Stephen King, Stanley Kubrick, Madeleine L’Engle, Gary Larson, Tanith Lee, Thomas Ligotti, H.P. Lovecraft, David Lynch, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Dave McKean, Michael Moorcock (not so sure he’s that weird either but loved his Elric books), Alan Moore, Catherine Moore & Henry Kuttner, Grant Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, Mervyn Peake, Penn & Teller, Bill Plympton, Thomas Pynchon, Anne Rice, Rod Serling, Dr. Seuss, James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon), Clark Ashton Smith, Stephen Sondheim, Rev. Ivan Stang, Hunter S. Thompson, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Waits, Alice Walker, Andy Warhol, John Waters, Roger Waters, Wim Wenders, Thornton Wilder, Robert Anton Wilson, Warren Zevon.
  • (now the ones I didn’t know) Art Bell, Margaret Brundage, Virgil Finlay, Charels Fort, Rand and Robyn Miller, Chuck Shepherd, Osamu Tezuka, Kool Keith Thornton, Kara Walker, Sylvia Townsend Warner.

That’s it. Only a few I didn’t know and most of those illustrators/painters but not all. But then Weird Tales set up a tab on their website www.weirdtalesmagazine.com called Share Your Weird, where people could list other names they thought should have been on the list. As I read through the initial list I agreed with most but found a few that I thought were weird enough to be on there as well. Reading through other people’s comments, there are many more weird artists out there than the 85 slots and people made good ponts. In fact they could probably have done 85 weird filmmakers, 85 weird comic artist/writers, 85 weird fiction writers, etc.

Here are a few that I would have added, not just because of their impact on me but on a genre (in no particular order):

  • China Mieville–his bugheaded women in Perdido Street Station is weird enough, not to mention the cactus people. But then maybe he’s not old enough. Interestingly, of the living artists in the list of 85, no one is under the age of 40.
  • Federico Fellini–moviemaker who was doing bizarre films of ancient Greece and Rome, of love and of fools way before the more recent films (Amarcord, Satyricon, 8 1/2)
  • Peter Greenaway–filmmaker who must have been influenced by Fellini as well as by impressionist painters of the 18th century. His films often have scenes with dead animals, still lives with bugs, and great symbolism which I love. Definitely on the weird side. (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover; Prospero’s Books, The Pillow Book, The Draughtsmen Contract, 8 1/2 Women [the Fellini influence])
  • Gahan Wilson–weird and creepy cartoonist where his people often looked like they were in pain or melting.
  • Jean Cocteau–Long before Wenders, Kubrick, Cronenberg, Greenaway, or Fellini, there was Cocteau doing silent films in black and white. His Beauty and the Beast La Belle et la Bête  was erotic and sensual before people talked of such things. The line of sconces, arms holding torches, set some of the stage for weird but arty films to come.
  • Brian Eno–his full name alone is weird (Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno). This avant garde musician started with Roxy Music and has been producer on some of the bands you know today (Coldplay, U2, Talking Heads). His own work of eclectically weird songs and sonic landscapes, such as “Music for Airports” puts him as king of weird in the musical world.
  • They Might Be Giants–their lyrics alone are equal to the imagery in China Mieville’s books. How to make hit tunes from nonsequitirs and have them make sense–that’s these guys.

I’m sure I could come up with more weird. Oddly enough there are no poets in the mix in either the magazine or my list. I would need to actually do more research because there is plenty weird. Lewis Carroll is before the 85 years of weird but Jabberwocky would be on that list. It would be interesting now, to do a list of 50 weird poets though some people might think that all poetry is weird. And to Weird Tales, it was an interesting issue and well worth reading a year past the publishing date. That’s what I love about fiction magazines: they’re often timeless. And here’s to at least another 85 years of weird tales.

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