Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Tennessee Williams in WEIRD TALES

It is fairly well-known that the writer Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) had his first short story published in the August 1928 issue of Weird Tales.  It was titled "The Vengeance of Nitocris" and was signed with Williams's full-name (soon abandoned for his nickname), "Thomas Lanier Williams."  It is based on a paragraph in Heroditus's The Histories which describes the princess Nitocris who obtains revenge upon her enemies, for the killing of her brother, by inviting them to a banquet in a spacious underground cavern.  Subsequently by a secret mechanism she lets the waters of the Nile rush in and drown them. Afterwards she kills herself in anticipation of any further vengeance practiced upon herself.  Williams's expansion of the basic tale is lurid and appropriately done for the venue in which it appeared. Williams wrote his story in 1927 at the age of sixteen, and earned $35 for it upon publication the following year. In a 1934 letter to another editor, he noted this accomplishment as "an achievement which I never tried to repeat."

Well, perhaps he meant that he never attempted to sell another story to Weird Tales, but last year in the February-May 2015 issue of The Strand Magazine there appeared a previously unpublished Williams story that apparently dates from the same period. It is titled "The Eye That Saw Death" and concerns a man losing his eyesight who, against his will, has the transplantation of a dead man's eye, and thereby man is haunted by something the eye saw as its previous owner died. Again it's rather luridly written, but it's less logical and not as well worked out.  Yet still it might have been at the time of writing intended for Weird Tales, even if Williams decided not to submit it. 


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