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Short Reviews – Smoke Fantasy, by Thomas R. Jordan –

Short Reviews – Smoke Fantasy, by Thomas R. Jordan

Friday , 28, July 2017 4 Comments

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

There really may be times when an illustration can make or break a story. And I think in this case, the illustration breaks it.

It needed something like this

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!

  • deuce says:

    Well, I think it could be questioned whether this little tale needed an illo at all. I think WT editor Farnsworth Wright screwed up as much as anybody in this case. The artist, Harold DeLay, seems to have been a better artist for more adventure-type stories and is still liked today by pulp collectors.

    No, I lay the “blame”, such as there is, on Wright wasting money on an illo for this slight story — which didn’t need one to begin with. DeLay would’ve been better utilized in one of the other stories in that issue.

  • Vlad James says:

    When I saw the face of the “monster”, my immediate reaction was to laugh. He looks like a mix between Mr. Magoo and Gargamel from “The Smurfs”.

  • deuce says:

    Terence Hanley’s Tellers of Weird Tales is the best website on the Net for WT info. As would be expected, he has a great write-up on De Lay:

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