Thursday, September 04, 2014

Zombies From the Pulps!: The Song of the Slaves - Manly Wade Wellman

After Howard, Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith, Manly Wade Wellman is one of the most respected authors who contributed to WEIRD TALES, and he wrote a zombie story, too: "The Song of the Slaves" in the March 1940 issue.

Unlike the other stories in this anthology, this one is a historical yarn, set in the 1850s. Instead of the Caribbean or the United States, it goes all the way back to Africa, the land where voodoo originated. An American plantation owner has journeyed there to cut out all the middle men and capture a group of slaves to put to work back home. He does so, but the return trip doesn't go exactly as planned. And once he's back in the States, things certainly don't work out the way the planter had intended, as the song sung by the slaves during the journey haunts him and becomes more and more sinister.

This is a short but really well-written story that turns some of the genre's conventions upside down, and as a result it's a little ahead of its time, reading more like a story that could have been published in the Fifties or Sixties. I haven't read Wellman's work extensively, but everything I've read by him has been excellent, and "The Song of the Slaves" is no exception.


Jerry House said...

Almost anything Wellman wrote is worthwhile.

Coincidentally, he wrote a great book (CANDLE OF THE WICKED) based on the Bloody Benders whom you mentions in your last post.

Jerry House said...

mentioned (darned fumble fingers)

mlem said...

Wellman was a great author. His Silver John stories are wonderful and so engaging. John Thunstone is another great character. Post 1940, virtually everything he wrote is top notch.