Category Archives: Chap O’Keefe

Further Thoughts on Marvin Kaye and Weird Tales, Plus Some Suggestions

Last fall I wrote a detailed review about the first issue of the latest version of Weird Tales.  One of the commenters, Chap O’Keefe, said he had sold a pair of stories that were scheduled to come out in subsequent issues.

Since then, there’s been little news about when those issues would appear.  At least until last Monday (June 24).  Mr. O’Keefe updated the status of his submissions in a follow-up comment.  I’m reproducing it in its entirety: 

Since the above was written, including my comments, much has changed at the new WT.My own latest shock came in an email from Marvin Kaye earlier this month in which he welshed on his acceptance of the two stories he was going to run in his magazine. Once upon a time you could count on an editor’s word, and his written word was as good as a handshake. The whole sorry tale is told in full in the introduction to my new Amazon Kindle eBook Witchery: A Duo of Weird Tales You might like to run the guts of it as a post in your new blog — a salutary warning to all who rely on gatekeeper publishers! In fact, it gives my small ebook a third, very weird tale. Story is “excellent” but editor and co-publisher Kaye must put it aside so he can re-open his “submission portal” to other, unseen stories … Huh? Has the man lost lost it?

And here’s a follow up comment with more information:

 I understand this situation affects several more writers, too. Kaye said, “I regret to inform you that the publisher of Weird Tales has decided to pass on quite a few stories, yours included. This is a measure to reduce our huge fiction inventory.” Kaye owns the rights to the Weird Tales magazine title and is co-publisher, so there is little we can do about what, as you say, is a pretty unheard-of thing to do, except WARN OTHERS. Kaye has offered no fee, just a promise that “If you have not sold your submission elsewhere, try us again in 9 months. If we have room at that time, it will be an automatic sale.” Note the “ifs”; note what his previous promises were worth.

I bought and read WitcheryI reviewed it at Amazing Stories, since the traffic is higher there.  I found both stories to be quite enjoyable and recommend the book.  It’s only $0.99, so it’s a steal.  The introduction alone is worth that.  If you’re interested in Weird Tales, you should read the introduction.

My purpose here isn’t to repeat the review, but to discuss some of the implications of what’s happened.  I’m not privy to Mr. Kaye’s counsel, and in fact have never met the man.  I’ve always enjoyed the anthologies he’s edited along with the first issue of the new Weird Tales.  My overall opinion of his taking the reigns of the magazine was that This Is A Good Thing.

Now I’m of a different opinion.  Frankly, I can’t begin to imagine what’s going through the man’s mind.  Why on Earth would he reject stories, perfectly good stories that he’d already accepted, just to reopen to submissions?  If he’s the editor can’t he open the slush pile when he’s good and ready?

Of course, if you recall, Kaye announced that excerpts of the novel Saving the Pearls would be appearing in the first issue he edited.  This is a book that many people in the sff community believed to be racist.  Publisher John Harlacher eventually (and belatedly) nixed that idea.  (Events summarized here.)  Maybe Harlacher is the one insisting on reopening for submissions?  I don’t know, but at this point it’s a possibility I’d consider until I learn otherwise.  None of which helps Mr. O’Keefe or any of the other authors who have received these letters.

I’ve seen reports that the magazine is foundering, at least in part because it has lost newsstand distribution.  I don’t see why that should be a problem.  There are a number of magazines that seem to be doing quite well that don’t have newsstand distribution or even print editions.  They run on some version of a model of electronic subscription and free stories online.  Perhaps you’ve heard of some of them.  They include but aren’t limited to:  Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Nightmare, Clarkesworld, and Galaxy’s Edge.

So here are my suggestions.  Mr. Harlacher can take it for what he thinks it’s worth, assuming he ever sees this.  First, change your business model.  Adopt the basic model of the magazines listed in the previous paragraph.  Forget about newsstand distribution.  The print format genre fiction magazines such as Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, EQMM, and AHMM saw their circulations drop for years until they began to produce electronic versions.  Since then things seem to have improved.  Magazines such as Realms of Fantasy have tried to make a go of it as print periodicals and are no longer with us.  Learn from these publications, both print and electronic, what works and what doesn’t.

Replace Marvin Kaye.  As much as I enjoyed his anthologies for the SFBC, and as much as it gives me no joy to write this, Kaye seems to have gone around the bend as an editor.  Find someone who will find new and exciting weird fiction while respecting the history of the publication, avoiding unnecessary controversy, or poor editorial decisions.  Kaye’s selection as editor was too divisive, and his decisions since then have only made things worse.  Someone who can restore faith in the publication needs to be the editor.  (Good luck finding this person.)  Ann Vandermeer brought new readers to the magazine while alienating many of the long-term fans.  I think at least for the near future, the publication should have a mix of fiction that is broader than anything Kaye or Vandermeer published.  Ideally, if WT published 4-6 stories a month or 2-3 every 2 weeks, there should be plenty of variety to please a majority of readers in both camps.  Not all, but a majority.

Those are my thoughts on how improve the magazine and get it back on its feet, as well as restoring its reputation.  I realize not everyone will agree with them.  That’s fine.  I’m making these suggestions in the interest of initiating a dialogue.

I’d like to thank the person who linked to my review in the Wikipedia article on Weird Tales