|Countries||United States of America|
|Occupations||Editor Author Music critic Soldier|
|Birth||29 July 1888 (California, Santa Barbara)|
|Death||12 June 1940|
|Education||University of Washington, University of Nevada|
Farnsworth Wright (1888 – 1940) was the editor of the pulp magazine Weird Tales during the magazine's heyday, editing 179 issues from November 1924-March 1940. Jack Williamson called Wright "the first great fantasy editor".
Life and career
Early life and Army service
Wright was born in California, and educated at the University of Nevada and the University of Washington. Wright's mother taught music and inspired in him his zeal for the classics and for art; he loved poetry and later encouraged its appearance in Weird Tales, making it one of the few pulp markets for verse. His first job was as a reporter, but he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1917 and served in the infantry in World War I.
Weird Tales, The Moon Terror and Oriental Stories/Magic Carpet Magazine
Wright was working as a music critic for the Chicago Herald and Examiner when he began his association with Weird Tales, founded in 1923. At first serving as chief manuscript reader, he replaced founding editor Edwin Baird in 1924 when the latter was fired by publisher J. C. Henneberger.
During Wright's editorship of Weird Tales, which lasted until 1940, the magazine regularly published the notable authors H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. Yet Wright had a strained relationship with all three writers, rejecting major works by them — such as Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness and The Shadow Over Innsmouth, Howard's "The Frost Giant's Daughter," and Smith's "The Seven Geases" (which Wright dismissed as just "one geas after another"). He could be both discouraging and encouraging with equal lack of logic. His preference for shorter fiction particularly led him to discourage Lovecraft's, whose best works emerged at longer lengths during the early 1930s. Nevertheless, as Mike Ashley has put it, "Wright developed WT from a relatively routine horror pulp magazine to create what has become a legend."
Wright's wide tastes allowed for an extravagance of fiction, from the Sword and Sorcery of Robert E. Howard, the cosmic fiction of Lovecraft, the occult detective stories of Seabury Quinn, the chinoiseries of E. Hoffman Price and Frank Owen, the terror tales of Paul Ernst (American writer) and the space operas and pandimensional adventures of Edmond Hamilton and Nictzin Dyalhis.
Wright also anonymously edited an anthology of WT stories, The Moon Terror (1927), as a bonus for subscribers. The contents were The Moon Terror (full-length novel by A.G. Birch); Ooze by Anthony M. Rud; Penelope by Vincent Starrett and Wright's own "An Adventure in the Fourth Dimension", described as "an uproarious skit on the four-dimensional theories of the mathematicians, and interplanetary stories in general." However, the anthology's contents (unfortunately representative of the worst of magazine's early years) meant the book took years to sell out; for many years during the 1930s Weird Tales carried advertisements for the book at the "reduced price of only fifty cents." Wright also edited a short-lived companion magazine, Oriental Stories (later renamed Magic Carpet Magazine) which lasted from 1930 to 1934.
Wright (nicknamed "Plato" by his writers) was also noteworthy for starting the commercial careers of three important fantasy artists: Margaret Brundage, Virgil Finlay, and Hannes Bok. Each of the three made their first sale to, and had their work first appear in, Weird Tales. Wright was close friends with writers who submitted to the magazine such E. Hoffman Price (who often helped read the slushpile submissions) and Otis Adelbert Kline.
E.F. Bleiler describes Wright as "an excellent editor who recognized quality work" in his book The Guide to Supernatural Fiction.
Wright also published some of his own fiction, but his stories are considered unmemorable. His poetry (as for his fiction, Wright used the pseudonym 'Francis Hard' on several of these pieces) is considered more delicate, but he limited its appearance.
Weird Tales author Robert Bloch describes Wright as "a tall thin man with a small, thin voice. The latter, together with a persistent palsy, was probably due to the effects of Parkinson's disease, an affliction which had plagued him since wartime military service. An authority on Shakespeare and a former music critic, this soft-spoken, balding, prematurely aged man seemed miscast as editor of a publication featuring bimbos uncovered on its covers and horrors concealed within its pages."
Later life and death
Wright had developed Parkinson's disease in 1921; by 1930, he was unable to sign his own letters. He attempted to launch Wright's Shakespeare Library in 1925 with a pulp-format edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Despite the illustrations by Virgil Finlay, the book flopped.
Wright's failing health forced him to resign as editor during 1940, and he died later that year. He was succeeded as editor of Weird Tales by Dorothy McIlwraith (who also edited Short Stories magazine).
Wright's nephew, David Wright O'Brien (1918-1944), was killed during World War II after a brief but prolific period as a contributor to the Ziff-Davis pulp magazines, including Fantastic Adventures, to which he contributed many humorous fantasies. .
Wright's granddaughter was the Hollywood actress Paula Raymond.