Some time ago, I picked up a copy of the January, 1947, issue of WEIRD TALES. I did this primarily because that issue was the first publication of Hodgson’s Carnacki story, “The Hog”. This was also Hodgson’s first appearance in the highly influential magazine which is surprising. Despite Hodgson’s death in 1918 and WEIRD TALES not beginning until 1923, it would have seemed like a natural fit for WHH’s fiction and it is curious that Hodgson’s widow never, so far as we know, submitted any of WHH’s tales to them. (At some point, I plan on analyzing WHH’s American vs British sales.)
I had bought the issue with two goals in mind:
1) I wanted to see if there had been any editorial natter connected with how the story came to WT and its provenance. Sadly, the issue had absolutely NO additional editorial information. The story was presented cold with no introduction or any clue for new readers about who Hodgson was or anything about Carnacki’s history! However, the editor must have held the story in some esteem as it was the first story in the magazine as well as being mentioned on the cover. (I am not sure if the cover was meant to illustrate “The Hog” or if it was just a stock cover they had lying about.)
2) I also wanted to do a textual comparison with the version of “The Hog” which was presented in Arkham House’s CARNACKI volume which came out later that year in 1947. Upon examination, I found that there was essentially no difference between the two except for occasional punctuation.
The issue did have ONE thing that I did not except and that was an excellent piece of artwork that accompanied the story by famed WT illustrator, Lee Brown Coye (1907-1981). For many years, Coye provided artwork for WT and many other pulps and remains one of the most influential artists of that period. Some do not care for Coye’s unique style but I have always found it to be extremely evocative and moody.
In many of Coye’s artwork, one finds the theme of sticks and there is an intriguing story behind that:
One recurring feature in Coye’s work is the motif of wooden sticks, often in latticework-like patterns. This was inspired by a 1938 discovery in an abandoned farmhouse.
Coye had returned to the North Pitcher, New York, area where he spent much of his childhood. While wandering deep in the woods, Coye discovered an abandoned farmhouse. Boards and pieces of wood which had been set perpendicular to one another surrounded the site. Neither inside nor out could Coye find an explanation for the presence of these crossed sticks. In the years following, Coye remained interested in the significance of his discovery.
When Coye returned to the site in 1963, there was nothing left of the building or the sticks (the area had suffered severe flooding), and he never found out why the sticks were there or who it was that had arranged them in such a manner. Because of the strangeness of the entire experience, these forms never left Coye, and they appear in many of his paintings and illustrations.
The incident also inspired Coye’s friend Karl Edward Wagner to write the award-winning story “Sticks”. (This information comes from Wikipedia but I have also heard this from other, independent sources.)
It is my opinion that this ‘stick’ motif is also represented in the movie THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.
Sadly, I do not own any collections of Coye’s artwork so am not sure if this piece has been presented before but it was something that I had never seen so I am passing it on here. I think it is a very strong illustration and am curious to hear other opinions. (This illo, unfortunately, has no ‘sticks’.)