Johnson, though, remembers the publication history differently, writing that "They" was both the first accepted and published--which is interesting given what I think is its resonance in the San Francisco Fortean community. According to Johnson, he based the . . . well, let's call it tale . . . on "a peculiar glen I had discovered down the Peninsula, with a strangely unpleasant atmosphere." The tale, in Johnson's accounting, "had neither characters, action or plot; but it was definitely weird." (Note: I have not yet read "They.")
I suspect that this is the same glen that came up in conversation between George Haas and Clark Ashton Smith's wife. Haas seems to have asked her about such a place near Pacific Grove, where the Smith's were living, and she responded,
"George, I found your 'magnetic field' as Hazel Dreris calls it, tho she says: Near San Luis Obispo . . . . She has been there not once but twice with friends." Hazel Dreis did not feel any sense of oppresion, as Haas (and Johnson?) did--that she experienced near Pt. Lobos, which Smith also had sensed. Rather, the glen made her feel "magnetized" and her legs "tingle."
This sense that the world had uncanny places was central to Weird Tales (and influenced the development of Forteanism in the San Francisco Bay Area). And so it's no necessarily surprising--but it is a testament to his skill--that "They" was well-received by readers of Weird Tales. Johnson's other two stories also provoked fan mail, "Lead Stories" even prompting H.P. Lovecraft to write a congratulatory note.
But despite the accolades, Johnson continued to feel "always the Outsider." He thought that the editor of Weird Tales, Farnsworth Wright, didn't like him. Wright, he complained, never wrote a personal note of acceptance, always said that the stories would need careful editing (although according to Johnson) nothing was changed, and perpetually complained that a page was missing from Johnson's story--which is either an eccentricity on Wright's part, or something like paranoia on Johnson's. After "Mice," Johnson had two articles rejected; these, he said, were perfectly good--one was later sold to Weird Tales--but reflected Wright's dislike for Johnson. And so he stopped publishing there for a few years.
It may be that this is when Johnson started publishing for Rogers Terrill magazines; or maybe he made his money some other way. Perhaps he was a frequent contributor to the pulps, but none of his remembrances indicate this, and so suggests both the kind of writer he was as well as raising some questions about his livelihood.
Some Weird Tales writers are best understood as literary snobs. H.P. Lovecraft hated the idea of writing for money--it sullied the art. There was some of this attitude in Clark Ashton Smith. Others, such as E. Hoffman Price--another Bay Area fantasy writer and, I think, Fortean--were professional writers. They paid attention to markets, understood what editors wanted, and created that, selling hundreds of stories over the course of their lifetime. Johnson, it seems, at least from the bibliography that now exists, was of the former type. Unknown is how he made a living. Hoffman sold enough stories to live; Smith supplemented his literary and artistic endeavors with manual labor. What did Johnson do?
He claims that his paintings sold well enough to keep him in food and clothes, as did writings for local art publications--although he doesn't say which one. He also wrote a book on Golden Gate Park--The Magic Park--but that wasn't published until 1940. so hardly could account for an income in the late 1930s. And so the question remains: What did Johnson do?