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“Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal…”

Weird Tales

Sci Fi Wire has spot-lit Weird Tales magazine’s 85th anniversary (via SFsignal.com). To celebrate, Weird Tales has posted the results of a poll to establish a list of the 85 Weirdest Storytellers of the Past 85 Years. I’ve previously expressed my admiration for Weird Tales, and I encourage everyone to join in the celebrations—at least in spirit. 85 years is a remarkable achievement in an industry as volatile as short fiction.

As Sci Fi Wire says, it’s a “controversial” list in that many of those choices aren’t writers. Among the weird “storytellers” chosen are musicians, artists and even film directors such as David Bowie, Margaret Brundage and David Cronenberg.

I find the argument that “speculative” and “alternative” were once one-and-the-same a compelling one. Certainly someone like Margaret Brundage was part of the avant garde of her day. Weird Tales in its early days was home to a collection of unique voices—at once cutting edge and disreputable in the way of all who pursue the pulpy.

Later, the type of authors most associated with Heinlein’s speculative fiction label—writers like Harlan Ellison and Michael Moorcock—fit quite comfortably into our contemporary concept of “alternative” culture.

Really good science fiction and fantasy writing seems to thrive in opposition to the mainstream in that, by their very nature, these works present alternate realities—both better and worse—to our own.

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