Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Karl Edward Wagner

15 years ago today, the great Karl Edward Wagner passed from us. His legacy, which includes the horror story "Sticks" (possibly the greatest horror story ever written) lives on, even if he is underappreciated today. KEW was also very successful in fantasy, creating one of the few epic heroes that could compete with those of Robert E. Howard, the roving swordsman Kane, who no man could look in the eye. In addition to Kane, he wrote some very good stories using Howard's creations. He was also a prolific editor, editing DAW's The Year's Best Horror series for many years.

Outside of his own writing, Wagner, who was a psychiatrist by training although he loathed it, made valuable contributions to the genres behind the scenes that are not as well known. He was one of the founders of Carcosa Press, an imprint dedicating to keeping alive the work of the pulp writers he loved. He is also legendary for his kindness to up-and-coming authors, and the constructive criticism he offered them. His hand did a lot to shape the horror genre in a positive way.

Much of his work is out of print today, and hard to find, but if you are not familiar with his work, you should seek them out. I would particularly recommend his first two short story collections, In A Lonely Place and Why Not You and I?, especially for his horror stories.

Occasionally today, you run into someone in the business, particularly on the fantasy side, that wants to spit on KEW's memory. It's good when that happens, because then you learn not to take anything they say seriously.

1 comment:

The Doctor said...

Agreed about "Why Not You and I?". It's one of my favourite short story collections.