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Wandrei, Donald

Entry updated 25 March 2024. Tagged: Author, Editor.

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(1908-1987) US editor and author, founder with August Derleth in 1939 of Arkham House, which they formed initially to publish the work of H P Lovecraft, whom both admired deeply. Wandrei resigned his interest in the firm after World War Two – when he also stopped writing new fiction, though much has been published for the first time in recent years – and after Derleth's death in 1971 he declined to resume it. As a writer he was justifiably best known for his Fantasy and weird stories, beginning with "The Red Brain" (October 1927 Weird Tales), a tale that incorporates a bungled sf premise about the nature of matter into a narrative whose deepest effect is one of chill horror at the cosmos or vastation (see Horror in SF). Later sf work, much of it in Astounding in the 1930s, is similarly compounded of disparate ingredients, and the tales assembled in the posthumous Colossus: The Collected Science Fiction of Donald Wandrei (coll 1989) and Don't Dream: The Collected Horror and Fantasy of Donald Wandrei (coll 1989) share the sense of the grotesqueness of the world espoused in that first story. Oddly, Fantasy Magazine solicited him to contribute to the sf Round-Robin tale, "The Challenge from Beyond", for its September 1935 issue, rather than the identically titled weird fantasy that was published simultaneously; his collaborators were Murray Leinster, E E Smith, Harl Vincent and Stanley G Weinbaum. In addition to some unremarkable verse, gathered in Ecstasy and Other Poems (coll 1928 chap), Dark Odyssey (coll 1931 chap) and Poems for Midnight (coll 1965), he published a collection of fantasy, The Eye and the Finger (coll 1944), a Lovecraftian Cthulhu Mythos tale, The Web of Easter Island (1948) – probably his finest single fiction, making, as usual his work, opportunistic use of sf devices (in this case travel between the Dimensions) to colour the horror – and Strange Harvest (coll 1965). With Derleth he selected the contents of the first Arkham House Lovecraft collections and edited three volumes of Lovecraft's Selected Letters: 1911-1924 (coll 1965), 1925-1929 (coll 1968), and 1929-1931 (coll 1971).

Wandrei's brother, Howard Wandrei (1909-1956), was an illustrator and the author of some fantasy stories under his own name and as by Robert Coley and H W Guernsey; Time Burial (coll 1995) assembles most of his best work. [JC]

see also: Astounding Science-Fiction; Cosmology; End of the World; Great and Small; Parallel Worlds; Small Presses and Limited Editions; Thought-Variant.

Donald Albert Wandrei

born St Paul, Minnesota: 20 April 1908

died Mendota Heights, Minnesota: 15 October 1987




works as editor


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