Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Wandrei, Donald

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(1908-1987) US writer and editor, founder with August Derleth in 1939 of Arkham House, the Small Press initially launched to publish the work of H P Lovecraft. DW resigned from the firm after WWII, was briefly active in it following Derleth's death in 1971, and was later involved in bitter litigation with AH's new owners.

DW's first published work was poetry, and many believe this was his best work. Like his fiction, DW's poetry output was diverse but displayed a predisposition towards the cosmic. His poems are collected in Ecstasy and Other Poems (coll 1928 chap) and Dark Odyssey (coll 1931 chap); Poems for Midnight (coll 1965) is largely drawn from the earlier two volumes, and The Collected Poems (coll 1988 chap) contains all known poems.

DW wrote approximately 50 tales of sf, fantasy and horror, frequently crosshatching. In particular, sf trappings can be found in many of his tales, such as "Giant Plasm" (1939 WT), in which the survivors of a sinking ocean liner reach an uncharted Island where they encounter a large animated and aggressive grey "block" – and also the remains of an alien spacesuit. In this and many of DW's other stories, there is no tidy explanation or convenient rationale. His more traditional fantasies include "The Painted Mirror" (1937 Esquire), later televised in Rod Serling's Night Gallery (1971-1973), which concerns a boy who finds a magic Mirror that acts as a Portal to another world. "Don't Dream" (1939), DW's only story to appear in Unknown, features a protagonist whose imaginings are seemingly being transformed into real-world events. Much of DW's work seems to exhibit a vague dissatisfaction with or even repulsion from the world at large. His short fiction is collected in The Eye and the Finger (coll 1944) and Strange Harvest (coll 1965), both with covers by DW's brother Howard Wandrei. DW's only novel, The Web of Easter Island (1948), is a powerful Cthulhu Mythos tale in which the unearthing of a strange statuette leads to the discovery of an impending invasion by an ancient alien race.

DW was reclusive and eccentric later in life; in 1984, he was awarded a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, but declined it. [BM]

other works: Colossus: The Collected Science Fiction of Donald Wandrei (coll 1989)

as editor: 3 vols of Lovecraft's Selected Letters1911-1924 (coll 1965), 1925-1929 (coll 1968) and 1929-1931 (coll 1971) – with Derleth.

Donald Wandrei


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.