|This article does not cite any references or sources. (October 2012)|
Whispers was probably the most widely respected and one of the most ambitious of the new horror and fantasy fiction magazines of the 1970s. It became at least as visible and nearly as influential as a series of mostly original anthologies in the 1980s.
Named after a fictitious magazine referenced in the H. P. Lovecraft story "The Unnameable", Whispers began as a modest attempt by editor and publisher Stuart David Schiff to produce a modest semi-professional little magazine that hoped to revive the legendary Weird Tales in a small way. It went on to be an ever more elaborate and well-produced showcase for much of the best dark fantasy fiction and artwork of the 1970s.
Among the fiction writers featured in the magazine were Manly Wade Wellman, Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, Ramsey Campbell, and Karl Edward Wagner. David Drake published much of his early fantasy fiction there. Among the artists to contribute were Stephen Fabian, Lee Brown Coye, Vincent Napoli, and many others, both legends in their own right and younger stars. The magazine won the first "Howard" or World Fantasy Award for non-professional publishing in 1975, though it was clearly on a professional level in editorial content and production.
Beginning in 1978, an anthology series, drawing on some of the best work published in the magazine and mixing some new material, was published in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Playboy Press, soon after absorbed by Berkley/Putnam, which began a trend of parallel publication of increasingly infrequent issues of the magazine and a string of anthologies with an ever larger proportion of original fiction. A total of six anthologies were published through 1987, and later a "Best of" volume was published in 1994.
Schiff also launched a book-publishing arm, Whispers Press, in the latter 1970s, which produced elegant and well-illustrated volumes. After a sampling from Whispers was published in the Gahan Wilson-edited First World Fantasy Awards volume, Schiff and Fritz Leiber co-edited the Second World Fantasy Awards volume for Doubleday.