Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Wellman, Manly Wade

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(1903-1986) US writer, born in Angola, brother of the writer Paul I Wellman (1898-1966). MWW worked in several genres, including sf and Westerns, and won awards for crime fiction and "true crime" writing, but his Horror and fantasy – often hybridizing the two – includes some highly distinctive material that might be reckoned his best. He was a regular contributor to Weird Tales, making his debut there with "Back to the Beast" (WT 1927); some of his WT work appeared as by Gans T Field, including a series chronicling the exploits of Occult Detective Judge Pursuivant. The Pursuivant series was collected along with the similar John Thunstone series and one other story in Lonely Vigils (coll 1981). Thunstone novels are What Dreams May Come (1983) and The School of Darkness (1985).

The cream of MWW's other weird and fantasy work for the pulps, including some as by Levi Crow, were previously assembled in Worse Things Waiting (coll 1973). Among the best of these are several stories set during the US Civil War, including "The Valley was Still" (1939) and "Fearful Rock" (1939); these were early manifestations of his keen interest in devising supernatural Americana specifically adapted to the history and geography of the USA. A collection stressing this aspect of his work is The Valley So Low: Southern Mountain Tales (coll 1987). "Frogfather" (1945) and "Sin's Doorway" (1946) introduced the character who was to be the mainstay of MWW's later career, John the Balladeer or Silver John, a modern wandering minstrel who encounters all manner of supernatural phenomena in the hills of North Carolina. A more sophisticated series of Silver John tales from F&SF was assembled as Who Fears the Devil? (coll of linked stories 1963; exp vt John the Balladeer 1988). The Silver John novels have not the delicacy of the best short stories, but are interesting by virtue of their elaboration of a curious syncretic mythology based in an imaginary US prehistory; they are The Old Gods Waken (1979), After Dark (1980), The Lost and the Lurking (1981), The Hanging Stones (1982) and The Voice of the Mountain (1985).

Although usually considered sf, Twice in Time (1939 Startling Stories; cut 1957; full text plus "The Timeless Tomorrow" [1947] coll 1988) is an unrationalized Timeslip romance; it is written more carefully, and seemingly with more feeling, than the rest of MWW's rather gauche work for the sf pulps. [BS]

other works: Romance in Black (1938 WT as "The Black Drama"; 1946 chap UK) as by Gans T Field; The Beyonders (1977); Cahena: A Dream of the Past (1986).

Manly Wade Wellman


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.