Now that the good folks at Girasol Collectables have reprinted many early issues of Weird Tales, this trivia question isn’t as difficult as it once was, but it’s still useful for winning the occasional pint at a convention: “Who was the author featured on the first issue of Weird Tales?” Most of your Weird Tales readers know it wasn’t Lovecraft, but are likely to guess at Seabury Quinn, or perhaps Greye La Spina. Of course, these answers are wrong. The cover portrayed the story “Ooze: The Tale of a Thousand Thrills!” by Anthony Rud. This leads to the question “Who the heck was Anthony Rud and why was Weird Tales so high on him?
Well, this volume and its companion (to be released in 2015) addresses that very question. Anthony Rud was a dependable scribe primarily of adventure and mystery tales but he definitely had a bent for the bizarre. As can be seen in the novel The Stuffed Men, Rud was writing in the weird menace genre a decade before the genre came into its own in publications such as Dime Mystery Magazine, Terror Tales and Horror Stories. As to why Weird Tales was so high on Rud, an examination of the contents page of that famous first issue reveals a list of authors that did little, if anything, to leave their footprints in the literary sands of time. In short, Rud was the sole professional represented in that first issue and if his was not a household name, at least there was the possibility that readers might recognize the name and pick up the issue.
This book had an extremely odd genesis. Some years back Peter Haining contacted me regarding a possible volume for Midnight House. This was somewhat of a surprise as over the years I had been less than kind in reviews of Mr. Haining’s work. To be more precise, while I have the highest regard for Mr. Haining’s enthusiasm for the genre and his tireless efforts to bring obscure weird fiction back into print, my opinion of his research is considerably lower. It just seems as though whenever he had a major project such as his facsimile volume Weird Tales, he just didn’t bother to check facts such as publication dates. Anyway, Peter presented the idea of doing a small Rud collection paired with a small selection of tales by another author, Robert Spencer Carr, working under the theory that neither author had quite enough material for a full collection. Well, there’s that research thing again. It so happens that when you consider the stories that Rud published under his pseudonym of “R. Anthony” one has eight longish stories in the weird fiction vein and the inclusion of a couple of his more bizarre adventure stories would give you a decent-size collection. As for Carr, not only does he have enough material for a collection, a collection has been published (Beyond Infinity, Fantasy Press 1951)!
In any event, Peter sent me just four or five pieces, laboring under the assumption that I have a huge collection of pulps (I don’t), so the project appeared to be stillborn. Added to this was the fact that other than the minor classic “Spiderbite”, Carr’s fiction tends to leave me cold. Also, there really isn’t any sort of commonality between the two authors that would justify a combined collection. I began to have these horrible visions of some of those monstrosities that Bill Crawford produced in the early fifties when he’d have left-over sheets from two completely unrelated books and would bind them up as a “Science Fiction Twin” or some such. However, the idea of an Anthony Rud collection stuck with me as something that would be worthwhile and of interest to a wide readership.
What I’ve decided to do is include the full-length novel, The Stuffed Men, with a selection of shorter works from Weird Tales: “Ooze”, “A Square of Canvas”, “The Place of Hairy Death” and “The Endocrine Monster”. A second volume will include the novel The House of the Damned and the short stories, “The Parasitic Hand” and “The Witch-Baiter”. A third volume will be comprised of the novel, Death Messenger and the two stories, “The Spectral Lover” and “Bellowing Bamboo” as well as any other stories that I’m able to turn up. To say that bibliographic information on Anthony M. Rud is incomplete would be an understatement. Rud was published in a variety of general fiction magazines and the last thing that I would want to see happening is for a genre piece to turn up after we’ve sent both The House of the Damned and Death Messenger to press.
While I can’t say that Anthony Rud is a great, lost master of the genre, his work is still a lot of fun. His scientists are madder than the proverbial hatter, damsels are always in distress and any experiment started is bound to go horribly awry. Had Rud launched his career a decade later, there’s little doubt that he would have been a major contributor to the weird menace pulps. As it is, his work forms a sort of bridge between the more over-the-top work of Sax Rohmer and the tales of science gone horribly wrong as exemplified by authors such as Wayne Rogers and Wyatt Blassingame in the pages of Terror Tales.
While these two books took on a radically different form than what Peter may have envisioned, we do have Peter Haining to thank for these books existing at all. After nearly ninety years readers can now see why Anthony Rud merited the cover feature in the first issue of “the unique magazine” and why he should take his place alongside other writers of weird menace and bizarre crimes such as Mark Hansom, Walter S. Masterman, John H. Knox, Wyatt Blassingame and Garnett Radcliffe.
Gallup, New Mexico
Spring Solstice 2014