Category Archives: Manly Wade Wellman

Birthday Reading: Manly Wade Wellman

Manly Wade Wellman was born, this day, May 21, in 1903 in Portuguese West Africa.  He was one of the greatest writers of horror and dark fantasy of the 20th Century, although he’s not as well known today as he should be.  His best known literary creation was John the Balladeer, and wandering minstrel of the Appalachian mountains.  Wellman began writing in the 1920s, and sold a number of stories to Weird Tales.  He was still writing in the 1970s and 1980s, and a number of his short stories were published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

In honor of his birthday, I’m going to look at two short stories.  Both were published in the pulps in the late 1930s.  I read both of them in Sin’s Doorway and Other Ominous Entrances, published by Night Shade Books in 2003.  It’s volume 4 of the 5 volume The Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman. Continue reading

Manly Wade Wellman Turns 113

manlywadewellmanFantasy author Manly Wade Wellman was born on this date (May 21) in 1903.  Wellman isn’t as well known today as he used to be, and should be, but he has a devoted group of fans.  (I include myself in that number.)  I’ve looked at some of it here, here, and here.

Wellman is best known for stories that incorporate the lore and legends of the Appalachian states.  Of these, the John the Balladeer stories are the best known.  They concern a wandering minstrel in the mountains.

Wellman was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his nonfiction work Rebel Boast.  He also beat out William Faulkner in 1946 for the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Award.  Faulkner didn’t take it well.

Night Shade Books publshed a five volume set of Wellman’s short fiction.  The volumes are long out of print and highly sought after today.  Haffner Press publsihed a complete collection of the John Thunstone occult detective stories in 2012.  They quickly went out of print.  Wellman’s works are somewhat available.  Prices can vary widely.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to read some of his work.

Manly Wade Wellman’s Kardios of Atlantis

swords against darkness“Straggler From Atlantis”
Swords Against Darkness
Andrew J. Offutt, ed.
mmpb, Zebra Books, 1977, $1.95

In the late 1970s, Manly Wade Wellman began a series of novelettes about the last survivor of Atlantis, a warrior bard named Kardios. Or at least he began publishing them in the late 1970s. In his introduction to “Straggler from Atlantis”, Adrew Offutt says that Wellman tried to publish them in the 1930s, but some other chap was writing about an Atlantean named Kull at the time and no editor was buying.

Be that at it may, the Kardios stories were published, although to the best of my knowledge, they’ve never been collected in book form. The ISFDB shows a total of five, with the first four appearing in the first four volumes of Swords Against Darkness and the final one in an anthology from DAW books with the generic title of Heroic Fantasy. Continue reading

“Arimetta” by Manley Wade Wellman

kadath_1981071_v1_n4“Arimetta” was originally published in Kadath #4 in July of 1981, something that isn’t listed in the ISFDB.  It was reprinted once in Sin’s Doorway and Other Ominous Entrances, The Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman, Volume 4 (Night Shade, 2003).  The latter is where I read it.  It’s the type of story set in the mountains that Wellman became known for.

This is a fairly short tale, one that’s loosely connected to the John the Balladeer stories.  Earl Wood is wandering the mountains and ends up literally singing for his supper in the cabin Big Don Imbry shares with his wife and daughter.  John taught Earl how to play the guitar, which makes him immediately welcome.

One of the songs Earl plays is “Wildwood Flower”, which he learned in Arkansas.  The song is an actual folksong, not a fictional one.   (Here’s Johnny Cash singing it.)  Welllman changes the name of one of the flowers mentioned from “aronauts” to “arimetta”.  That line has been changed in all the recordings I can find of it online to “the pale and the leader and eyes look like blue”.

“Arimetta”, from what I’ve been able to determine from my Google-Fu, is a woman’s name from that region of the country that’s no longer common and doesn’t appear to ever have been. Continue reading

“The Golgotha Dancers” by Manly Wade Wellman

Golgotha Dancers“The Golgotha Dancers”
Manly Wade Wellman
ebook $0.99

This story was originally published in the October 1937 issue of Weird Tales.  It’s now available as a short story in electronic format.

This is an early Wellman, so it doesn’t have the strong sense of place as his later work set in the Southern mountains, such as the John the Balladeer stories.  Still, it’s a solid piece of fiction in its own right, even if it isn’t Wellman’s best work.

Just so you know, below the CONTINUE READING line, there will be spoilers. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Manly Wade Wellman

Manly Wade WellmanManly Wade Wellman was born on this day in 1903.  He’s best known for his stories of John the Balladeer, a minstrel who wandered the southern mountains with his silver stringed guitar.  Other series characters include the occult detective John Thunstone and Hok,

I don’t recall when I first became aware of Wellman, but it had to be in junior high or early high school.  Quite possibly a John The Balladeer story in an anthology.  We moved in the middle of my sophomore year, and the small town we moved to had a little second hand book shop.  Among the treasures I found there (Green Lantern #1) was an almost complete run of F&SF from the mid 70s to the early 80s.  Of course I bought them all.

These issues had a number of short stories by Wellman, many of them stand-alones.  I devoured them over that summer between my sophomore and junior years.  Wellman’s incorporation of Southern and mountain folklore was unlike anything I’d read.  I’ve kept my eye out for his work ever since.   Later, when Nightshade published its five volume collection of Wellman’s work, I bought those.

So tonight, after everyone goes to bed, I’ll raise a glass in Wellman’s memory and read some of his work.

More Bookstore Closing Acquisitions

I posted recently about one of the local used bookstores (currently there are 4: 2 good, 1 decent, 1 not worth bothering with) closing and some of the titles I picked up.

You know I went back.  The store will be open for a little while yet.  Here’s what I picked up this time.

More AcquisitionsI couldn’t resist the cover of the Howard pastiche by Offutt, even though I doubt I’ll read it.  The People of the Mist is an upgrade of my existing copy.  The Starfollowers of Coramonde is a later edition, but the Darrell K. Sweet cover matches the one on the first novel in the series.

I loved Sean Stewart’s Galveston some years back, but I haven’t read any of his other books.  The Tanith Lee speaks for itself.  The third row contains the first 3 of 4 in Lawrence Watt-Evans Lords of Dus series.

The last row is a reading copy of one of Evangeline Walton’s books that was part of the BAF series.  The Zahn is part of a series that looks like a lot of fun.  And the Paul Preuss because I wanted some solid science fiction in the old style.

But the gem of this little collection is the volume in the upper left of the picture.  It’s Whispers, edited by Stuart David Schiff.  It’s a collection of stories published in his groundbreaking small press magazine of the same title.  I’ve got a copy of this already, but I couldn’t pass this one up.  The contents include “Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner, “The Barrow Troll” by David Drake, “The Dakwa” by Manly Wade Wellman, plus stories by Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber, William F. Nolan, Hugh B. Cave, Dennis Etchison, Joseph Payne Brennan, Ramsey Campbell, Richard Christian Matheson, Brian Lumley, and many others.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go reread “Sticks”.

Short Story Stocking Stuffers

Back in October, I looked at some of the stories in on of Prime Books theme anthologies dealing with, what else, Halloween.  I also mentioned another Halloween themed anthology at the same time.

Well, for Christmas, I thought I’d do the same thing.  This time I’ll look at another anthology from Prime, plus  one from Baen.  With one exception, which I’ll save for last, the contents of the two books have no overlap.  I’ve selected two tales from each one.  Sort of literary stocking stuffers.  I based my selections on the authors, choosing those I especially liked.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

Season of Wonder
Paula Guran, ed.
Prime Books
trade paperback, 384 p., $15.95
Kindle, Nook $6.99 (available directly from Prime)

Of the two anthologies, I liked the cover art on this one better.  The stories here are more recent, as is typical of the anthologies from this publisher.  With the exception of the story by Sarban, which was published in 1951, all of them were published in the last 23 years.  I’d not previously read either of the stories I selected for review.

The first story I read was “Christmas at Hostage Canyon” by James Stoddard.  Stoddard is the author of The High House and The False House, novels inspired in part by Lin Carter’s Adult Fantasy series published by Ballantine in the late 60s and early 70s.  This story is set firmly in the present day and concerns a young boy’s encounter with an evil elf and a sword swinging Santa, which is my kind of Santa.  I liked this one a lot and thought Stoddard captured the viewpoint of a young boy perfectly.  Stoddard’s novels are out of print, but if you haven’t read them, they’re worth tracking down.

The second story I selected is “Loop” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.  Rusch has written a number of Christmas related stories in her career, many of which are available on her website if you want to read them.  Christmas isn’t central to this story in the sense that the Christmas aspect could be taken out without making major changes to the storyline.  However, this one probably works best as a Christmas story because it can be read as a riff on the Ghost of Christmas yet to come from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  Unlike Dickens’ work, which is fantasy, this one is solidly science fiction, although the actual science content is mostly of the handwaving variety.  (At least it is to this scientist.)  That doesn’t take away the impact of the story, which I found to be a moving mediation on regret and choices not made.

Hank Davis, ed.
paperback, $7.99, ebook $8.99

Of the two volumes considered here, this one has the most variety in terms of publication date.  The oldest story is Seabury Quinn’s “Roads” (which I profiled exactly two years ago) from 1938.  The most recent is the only original tale in the book, “Angel in Flight” by Sarah A. Hoyt.  For the purposes of this review, I chose two of the older stories by two of my favorite authors, both sadly long deceased.  I’d read both stories years ago (as well as the story common to both volumes).  Both of these stories are parts of larger series, and while they aren’t major works as far as their respective series are concerned, they are both strong Christmas stories, the first in terms of theme and the second in terms of Christmas being central to the story.

“Over the Hills and Everywhere” is one of Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer stories.  In this one, though, John is only the narrator, telling a Christmas story to the children of a family with whom he’s spending the holiday.  As such, he only appears in the bits of framing sequence.  The story he tells is one of feuding neighbors and a wandering stranger who brings peace to their mountain.  Wellman was a deeply religious man, and it shows here in this tale.

Poul Anderson is represented by “The Season of Forgiveness”, from his Technic Civilization series, one of my favorite future histories.  This particular piece was written for Boys’ Life, the publication of the Boy Scouts of America.  It’s the story of a 16 year old graduate from the Academy who is assigned to his first post on an isolated trading station.  His desire to have a Christmas celebration for the children of an incoming group of settlers turns out to have long reaching implications for the relations between the humans and the indigenous population.

Christmas stories are hard to pull off without coming across as trite, overly-sentimental, or preachy.  The Anderson tale succeeds better than the Wellman at this.

Of course the one author who has built a reputation for extremely well executed Christmas stories is Connie Willis.  These have mostly been science fiction, with only one or two pure fantasy, and they’re well worth seeking out.  Some of the early one have been collected in Miracle and Other Christmas Stories.  That book was published over a decade ago (has it really been that long?), and she continues to write them.  Hopefully there’ be a new collection soon.  I always look forward to Connie’s Christmas stories, which almost always are published in Asimov’s.  She doesn’t publish one every year, and when she doesn’t, I’m always disappointed. (It’s been a couple of years since the last one appeared.)

The story that’s common to both anthologies is “Newsletter”, which I find interesting since there are so many of her stories to choose from.  This is an excellent choice, as it has all the elements that make a Connie Willis Christmas story so much fun to read.  Think a romantic comedy written by P. G. Wodehouse that takes place at Christmas with some type of fantastic angle, and you might have a glimmer of what you’re getting.

In this one, written as though it were a Christmas newsletter, we get Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters crossed with a Cary Grant screwball romantic comedy.  I’m a hard sell for humor, but this one made me laugh out loud.  I dare you not to see one of your family members somewhere in the cast.  If you’ve not read any of Willis’ Christmas stories, you’ve been missing out.  They’re an excellent example of an author taking diverse influences and melding them to produce something totally original.  There’s nothing like them anywhere that I’ve found.  The only thing that comes close is some of the humor in Kage Baker’s work.

There are a lot more selections in these anthologies.  I’m going to save them for next year.  If you’re in the mood for a holiday injection into your reading, either of these anthologies should fit the bill.