Smoke Fantasy by Thomas R. Jordan appeared in the March 1939 issue of Weird Tales. A scanned pdf of this issue can be found here at Luminist.org.
There really may be times when an illustration can make or break a story. And I think in this case, the illustration breaks it.
Jordan’s Smoke Fantasy is a bit of a page-filler piece, and it’s not a bad one. A pulp writer is having a smoke while trying to come up with an idea for a villain for his story; in the wisps of smoke, he begins to see the vague features start to take shape. The smoke-figure becomes more and more detailed until it kills the writer. That’s really about all there is to it, and it’s totally spoiled by the illustration.
It is, however, a perfect “scary story to tell in the dark,” and it is not badly written. Try reading it for yourself and then just imagine how much more effective this piece would be with a Stephen Gammell illustration rather than the doofy cartoon by Harold Delay.
Oddly enough, it’s almost as if Jordan himself was seized by an apparition; Smoke Fantasy is Jordan’s only published story in Weird or anywhere else! Despite being written by such an obscure author, Smoke Fantasy did see reprint in the anthology “100 Creepy Little Creature Stories” where it finds itself in some rather impressive company.
Apologies if, much like the story itself, this week’s post comes across as a bit of a filler. Next week, I should have something really weird for you guys, though!