Thursday, September 10, 2015

Weird Legacies (1977) edited by Mike Ashley

Weird Legacies (1977) edited by Mike Ashley, containing the following stories: "Skulls in the Stars" (1929) by Robert E. Howard; "The Three Marked Pennies" (1934) by Mary Elizabeth Counselman; "He That Hath Wings" (1938) by Edmond Hamilton; "The Distortion Out Of Space" (1934) by Francis Flagg; "The Utmost Abomination (1973) by Lin Carter and Clark Ashton Smith; "Eternal Rediffusion" (1973) by Eric Frank Russell and Leslie J. Johnson; "The Ducker"(1943) by Ray Bradbury; "The Black Kiss" (1937) by Henry Kuttner and Robert Bloch; and "The Survivor" (1954) by H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth.

Enjoyable, brief anthology of stories previously published in the venerable Weird Tales (originally 1923-1954, with several brief revivals since then). Robert Bloch supplies a nice little introduction while anthologist Mike Ashley gives the reader lengthy, informative notes before and sometimes after the nine stories. The two 1973 anomalies in the story appearance dates come from Lin Carter finishing a much older Clark Ashton Smith fragment for the brief 1970's revival of Weird Tales and a rejected 1940's Eric Frank Russell/Leslie Johnson story that also appeared in the 1970's revival.

For such a short anthology, Weird Legacies possesses impressive range. All of the original Weird Tales writers who got high marks in the readers' polls in the magazine appear here with the exception of Seabury Quinn, whom Ashley promises will appear in a later (non-existent, so far as I can tell) anthology. 

Kuttner and Bloch's "The Black Kiss" is a revelation, an excellent, unsettling bit of aquatic horror with certain similarities to H.P. Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" from two correspondents with H.P.L.. August Derleth's literal-minded expansion of a Lovecraft fragment, "The Survivor," is perhaps too similar, and inferior, to the Bloch/Kuttner piece to profitably appear here. Lin Carter's Smith expansion offers an interesting pastiche of Smith's ornate, baroque writing style, but it too offers too much of the same thing as it concludes.

The other stories are more in line with the excellence of "The Black Kiss," with a solid Solomon Kane story from Robert E. Howard and Edmond Hamilton's elegiac tale of a winged mutant leading the way. "The Three Marked Pennies", one of the most popular Weird Tales stories ever, seems like a Twilight Zone bit super-collided with a conte cruel. It is indeed memorable. The Francis Flagg piece is interesting as a Lovecraftian riff with an ending more suited to the Horta episode of Star Trek. A somewhat atypical Ray Bradbury story set on the battlefields of WWII and the truly odd, metaphysical "Eternal Rediffusion" round out the selection. Recommended.

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