Archive for the 'Howard Fandom' Category

IMG_0001It was around 1975 when I read my first Karl Edward Wagner novel, Bloodstone, with that great Frazetta cover pictured to the left. I remember really enjoying it, and I thought his Kane was a fascinating creation.  I quickly realized that I had discovered a fantasy writer that was quite a bit better than most of the other sword and sorcery authors that were peddling their crap at that time.

In 1977, I picked up the Berkley/Putnam edition of The People of the Black Circle and my estimation of the Bloodstone author rose even higher, because, in this Wagner-edited volume Howard fans got to see the Conan stories as they had originally appeared in Weird Tales, with no pastiches, no yarns by lesser writers trying to self-promote themselves with their own versions of the dark barbarian.

Two more additions to this series followed, The Hour of the Dragon and Red Nails, but that, unfortunately, was it.  To any reader of this blog it should be apparent there is only one Conan and that is, of course, the Robert E. Howard Conan.  No movie, no comic book adaptation, and no pastiche should ever be considered part of the Conan canon—if Howard didn’t write it, it ain’t Conan, simple as that.

So my respect for Wagner soared when I noticed that the only by-line to appear on the book-spine was Howard’s, and nowhere in his foreword does Wagner mention the names of the other writers that had worked on the Lancer series—and since Mr. Wagner didn’t feel it fulfilled any purpose to state their names I’ll follow his lead and won’t either.  Hopefully it’s not necessary and hopefully their tales of their Conan will be buried somewhere and forgotten.

Wagner shows he’s my kind of Howard fan when he writes, “It is this editor’s feeling that the Conan stories should be presented exactly as Howard wrote them, and that examples of pastiche writing have no place in a collection of the original author’s own stories.  Pastiche-Conan is not the same Conan as portrayed by Robert E. Howard—and I say this as one who has written Howard pastiches.”  Beautiful.

In the second volume in the series, The Hour of the Dragon, he adds to this statement, noting, “later writers have revised nonfantasy adventures to turn them into Conan stories, and have further altered Howard’s Conan through a vast body of frank pastiches.  These are not Conan stories—not Robert E. Howard’s Conan—and have no more validity in relation to the stories than any Conan tales you might yourself decide to write.”  Wagner is becoming my hero.

In the last volume of this series, Red Nails, he refers again to the earlier tampering by, well, you know.  “Unfortunately these earlier efforts [the Gnome and Lancer editions] were burdened with the aforementioned Conan collaborations and pastiches, and Howard’s text in the completed stories was tampered with by previous editors.”  And then Wagner reiterates his belief that no collection of Conan should contain any stories except those by Howard.  My man. 

IMG_0002Because of this high regard I check eBay quite often for Wagner items and I was delighted to come across Michael Moorcock’s Stormbringer, pictured to the left with the J. Cawthorn cover.  While the book is in itself collectible I was somewhat amazed to discover this was actually Wagner’s own copy, and contained his bookplate.  I quickly bought it and added it to my library.

Shortly after this purchase eBay yielded another surprise—a teleplay by Wagner adapting Howard’s “The Horror from the Mound” for the series Tales From the Darkside.  I had heard of this somewhat legendary script, but I’d never had the chance to read it.  So, on the day it arrived, I spent a pleasurable hour familiarizing myself with KEW’s remarkable adaptation.  Wagner deserves all the adulation Howard fans can give him, because this is the way Howard should be treated by screenwriters and movie makers.

It’s a solid retelling of one of my favorite REH yarns with one notable exception; Wagner introduces a third modern-day character, Jarrett Buckner.  The creation of this character helps KEW move the teleplay along, especially during the sequences when Brill reads the manuscript left by Juan Lopez—with Buckner on stage Brill can narrate Lopez’s tale aloud, instead of only reading it to himself.

IMG_0003I was never a Tales From the Darkside fan, at the time it first aired I felt most of the episodes fell kind of flat, and I ended up sarcastically calling the program Tales From the Unimaginative Side.

One of the episodes I fuzzily recall concerned an old man who had apparently died but would not admit it to himself, or his loved ones.  His relatives are of course unsettled by this and are trying to prove to the elderly gentleman that he has indeed perished and that it’s time for him to take his place in the coffin.  So, during one meal, his family members pepper his plate severely, enough to make him sneeze so heavily that he blows his nose off, thus confirming to himself that he is, indeed, a walking dead man.  I believe the last scene in the show is of his nose still embedded in his handkerchief, with lots of gross material surrounding it.

How correct my memory is of this show I’m not exactly certain but I do know that my estimation of Tales From the Darkside does not place it on the top shelf of horror shows—Thriller has nothing to worry about.  However, after reading Wagner’s teleplay, and recognizing how good it would have appeared on television, I may have to go back and take another look at some of those old Tales episodes.  The fact that “The Horror from the Mound” was even considered to be a possible candidate for this old horror series does say something good about Tales From the Darkside—I may have to take back that Unimaginative Side crack.

This Wagner teleplay deserves publication—if only to show that Howard can be brought to the small, or big, screen with very little tampering.  It can be done, Howard fans, and we all know it.

Weird Tales Covers

Seems like Chicago is the place to be in April. In addition to the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association is holding its national conference April 16th through 19th at the Marriott Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile Hotel. For those of you not familiar with PCA/ACA, here is their mission statement:

The mission of the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association is to promote the study of popular culture throughout the world through the establishment and promotion of conferences, publications, and discussion. Aiding the PCA/ACA in this goal is the PCA/ACA Endowment which offers support for scholars and scholarship.

The PCA/ACA actively tries to identify and recruit new areas of scholarly exploration and to be open to new and innovative ideas. PCA/ACA is both inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary. Finally, the PCA/ACA believes all scholars should be treated with dignity and respect.

You can find the complete details pertaining to the conference here.  Below is a list of topics of interest to Howard and fantasy fans, courtesy of Jeffrey Shanks:

Pulp Studies I: Weird Tales: The Unique Magazine

Weird Modernism: Literary Modernism in the First Decade of Weird Tales – Jonas Prida (College of St. Joseph)

The Occult Truth of History: Lovecraft, Howard, Smith, and the Headless Sublime – Jason Carney (Case Western Reserve University)

“What Subtle Torment the Black God’s Kiss Had Wrought Upon Him”: Gender Performance as Strategic Advantage in American Sword and Sorcery – Nicole Emmelahinz (Case Western Reserve University)

Pulp Studies II: History, Horror, and the Heroic Fantasy of Robert E. Howard

Cthulos/Kathulhu: Intertextuality in the Pulp Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard – Nicole Rehnberg (California State University, Fullerton)

Through a Glass Too Darkly: Conan Revealed as “The Bright Barbarian” – Frank Coffman (Rock Valley College)

Night Falls on Asgard: Robert E. Howard’s Weltgeschichte – Rusty Burke (Independent Scholar)

Pulp Studies III: Imperial Pulp – Nationialism and Colonialism in Pulp Fiction

From Jungle Lords to Planetary Pioneers: Ideologies and Anxieties of Colonialism in the Pulps – Jeffrey Shanks (National Park Service)

“Thou, Africa!”: An Analysis of Robert E. Howard’s Conflicting Views on Race in His Unpublished Poetry – Barbara Barrett (Independent Scholar)

“Too bad it’s in the Soviet Zone now”: Divided Germany and Pro-American Discourses in James McGovern’s Romance Novel Fräulein (1956) – Elisa Edwards (Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria)

Pulp Studies IV: Weird Menaces and Hard-Boiled Heroes

Erle Stanley Gardner’s Pulp Legacy – Jeffrey Marks (Independent Scholar)

Pulpy Rhetoric: The Modern Sophism of Black Mask – Rachel Tanner (University of Oregon)

Spicy Horror: Sex and Magical Reversal in Weird Menace Pulp Fictions – Meta Regis (Stella Maris College)

Pulp Studies V: Pulp Pedagogy – Pulp Fiction in Education

Teaching the Pulps: A Heuristic for Rhetorical Reading of Popular Fiction – Justin Everett (University of the Sciences)

Orange Pulp: Collecting & Interpreting Pulp Magazines at Syracuse University – Sean Quimby (Syracuse University)

The Cosmic Angle of Regarding: Mathematics and the Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft – Daniel Look (St. Lawrence University)

As you can see, the various areas of study cover a lot of ground and include presentations by guest bloggers and TGR contributors Barbara Barrett, Rusty Burke, Frank Coffman and Jeffrey Shanks. If you can make it, you’d be helping show support for the topics and presenters. That support would be a big part of bringing Robert E. Howard studies to the forefront of academia.

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The Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention will be held again this year in Lombard, a suburb of Chicago, on April 25-27. The event has expanded from a single day event in 2001 into the largest pulp and popular culture show in the nation with more than 400 attendees each year. The goal of the convention is to bring the fans the best the pulps and popular culture have to offer, and year after year it does. For 2014, Windy City will be celebrating the 85th anniversary of Sam Spade and Dashiell Hammett, and the 95th anniversary of Western Story Magazine.

This is the fifth year the convention will be held at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center. The event runs Friday through Sunday, but the con suite will be open on Thursday evening where you pick up your badges and program books early.

If you plan on attending and haven’t booked your hotel room yet, the deadline to get the convention rate, which is a huge savings over the regular rate, is April 7th at 5:00 pm, Central time. You can book online at the hotel’s website.

western-story-magazine-pulp-movie-poster-1938-1020410314Again this year, Bill Cavalier will be hosting a Robert E. Howard Foundation luncheon for all the Howard fans who are Legacy Members at the Westin on Saturday. This year everyone will be going Dutch since the Foundation is conserving funds for other Howard related endeavors.

This event usually attracts a good sized group of Howard fans, so if you can make to the Windy City convention, you’ll have plenty of like-minded folks to hang out with. Plus, you will have place to get together and talk Howard since the Foundation will have a table in the dealer’s room.

The best place to get information and updates on Windy City and other upcoming conventions is at Bill Thom’s Coming Attractions website.

This entry filed under Collecting Howard, Howard Fandom, News.

This is the final post for 2013 of the online version of Nemedian Dispatches. This feature previously appeared in the print journal and is now on the blog. On roughly a quarterly basis, Nemedian Dispatches will highlight new and upcoming appearances of Howard’s fiction in print, as well as Howard in other types of media.

In Print:

1455099_698319006860121_1820056067_nWeird Tales (October 1936)
Just published by Girasol Collectables Inc., is the October 1936 pulp replica of Weird Tales featuring the third and final installment  of “Red Nails.”  Part 1 appeared in the July 1936 issue, Part 2 in the August-September 1936 issue, both of which are available from Girasol. 

Western Tales
The REH Foundation Press’ collection of Howard’s western yarns is now available to order. It is the most comprehensive collection of Howard’s straight westerns ever published, including his classic weird westerns. The volume also features a Foreword by western fictioneer James Reasoner, a cover by Tom Gianni and Notes on the Text by Rob Roehm.

Fight Stories  (December 1931)
Adventure House has released a pulp replica of the December 1931 issue of Fight Stories featuring Robert E. Howard’s Sailor Steve Costigan in “Circus Fists.”

41f6kD7xfsLUndead in the West II: They Just Keep Coming
This new scholarly collection kicks off with “Vaqueros and Vampires in the Pulps: Robert E. Howard and the Dawn of the Undead West” by Jeff Shanks and Mark Finn. And that’s just the beginning, the volume has sixteen other essays on topics related to the weird west. It comes at a hefty price, but it is a hefty book, clocking in at over 350 pages. The book is edited by Cynthia J. Miller and A. Bowdoin Van Riper, and features a foreword by science fiction author William F. Nolan (Logan’s Run).

 Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword #6
WriterMatt Kindt  teams with comic-book superstar artist Keu Cha  to bring you a familiar Conan story with a twist! Paul Tobin and Francesco Francavilla deliver the second exciting installment of “Dark Agnes: Sword Woman,” while Ian Edginton and TGR contributor Richard Pace to illustrate why the Picts are such a formidable fighting force in part 2 of “Bran Mak Morn: Men of the Shadows.” This plus much more in this latest issue.

61RT9j1FMCL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Colossal Conan
Finally, a collection gigantic enough for Conan the Cimmerian himself! This massive hardcover volume weighs in at 13 pounds and collects Conan issues #0 through #50 in 1264 pages. Beginning with the early work of Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord through the famous collaborations of Timothy Truman and Tomás Giorello, this huge tome features an introduction from Busiek and an afterword from Truman. It is truly a must have for any Howard comic collector. The many contributors include: Kurt Busiek (Writer), Timothy Truman (Writer), Mike Mignola (Writer), Cary Nord (Art), Tomás Giorello (Art), Thomas Yeates (Art), Greg Ruth (Art), Eric Powell (Art), Rafael Kayanan (Art), Paul Lee (Art), Leinil Francis Yu (Art), Joseph Linsner (Art), Ladronn (Art), Tony Harris (Art), Paul Lee (Art), Dave Stewart (Color), Richard Isanove (Color), JD Mettler (Color), Tony Shasteen (Color), José Villarrubia (Color), and Mark Schultz (Cover)

 Coming Soon: 

boxing2The REH Foundation Press
Fists of Iron, Round 2 is now available to preorder. This is the second of a four volume comprehensive collection of REH’s humorous and straight boxing yarns (volume one was published earlier this year) from the Foundation Press. Also in the works for the near future is a two volume collection of Howard’s humorous western yarns, a book of Celtic adventures (Cormac Mac Art, et al.), an autobiographical book of sorts consisting of Post Oaks and Sand Roughs and various articles and essays written by Howard with a biographical slant, plus several other volumes.

REH: Two-Gun Raconteur #17
After a one year forced hiatus, TGR is returning in 2014 with a new issue just in time for Howard Days in June. You can expect the usual stellar line-up of rare Howard fiction, great artwork and outstanding essays and articles from more Howard scholars than you can shake a stick at. Stay tuned for more details as 2014 progresses.

IMGAnybody remember David Mason?

I’m a sucker for nostalgia; every so often I get the craving to go back and reread books that were favorites of mine when I was younger.  Sometimes this is a good thing, because the writer and his work hold up very well; more often, however, it isn’t.   And when this happens I can only shake my head and wonder what the hell I ever thought was good in that book.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced this form of regret—as we get older some books, and their authors, just no longer entertain us.  Lately I decided to see if the works of David Mason were as good, to me, as I remembered them from a long time ago.  Except for Howard, I don’t read much sword and sorcery anymore and I thought I might be disappointed.

I first discovered David Mason’s Kavin’s World at the local bookstore when I was thirteen and I remember I loved it.  With that beautiful Frazetta cover I knew this was a book I had to have and so immediately purchased it.  Even though Mason, after Kavin’s World, never had another book graced by a Frazetta masterpiece I continued buying his stuff; he was a captivating storyteller.

At least that’s how I felt back in 1969, and so I was a bit apprehensive when I dug out my copy of The Sorcerer’s Skull, my favorite of Mason’s novels, and got down to business.  I’m not going to do a plot synopsis, but I will say that the book deals with a heroic warrior, a quest, a diabolic sorcerer and a lovely lady—typical of a lot of fantasy from around that time, but Mason is not your typical writer and I’m happy to report that even after all these years I found it was a quick and pleasurable read.  Admittedly, it wasn’t quite as exciting to me as when I first read it but it was still enjoyable, and I’ll now probably reread the rest of the Mason books I own.

If you haven’t read Mason you’re missing one of the best heroic fantasy authors from that time when way too many paperback books were trumpeted as being “in the tradition of Robert E. Howard.”  There were so many sword and sorcery novels hitting the book shelves in the late sixties and early seventies that it was an impossible task to buy them all—not that I wanted to, most of them were just plain unliterary crap written by hacks who were only taking advantage of the possible money that Howard’s success was stirring up.  Couldn’t read most of that stuff then, couldn’t possibly go back and read it now with any enjoyment.

David Mason is a cool exception.  Of course he does show the Howard influence—one example from Kavin’s World is when he introduces us to a sorcerer named “Thuramon.”  Pretty close to Thoth-Amon.

Mason died in 1974 at fifty years of age—way too young—I wish he could have stuck around a little longer; it would have been nice to have had more good sword and sorcery books to read.  On a personal note my own quest is to find an autographed copy of one of Mason’s books—he’s a tough one, but that’s what makes the hunt fun and rewarding.

Art credit: Kavin’s World by Frank Frazetta
This entry filed under Howard Fandom, Sword & Sorcery.

Hanging Out at the Robert E. Howard Foundation Dealer’s Table

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 Out and About in San Antonio

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Photos courtesy of John Bullard, Rusty Burke, Patrice Louinet, Dennis McHaney, Rob Roehm, Jeff Shanks, Keith West and probably one or two other folks.

This is the third post for 2013 of the online version of Nemedian Dispatches. This feature previously appeared in the print journal and is now on the blog. On roughly a quarterly basis, Nemedian Dispatches will highlight new and upcoming appearances of Howard’s fiction in print, as well as Howard in other types of media.

In Print:

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Weird Tales (July 1936)
Girasol Collectables Inc. has just published the first replica (which sports a great Brundage cover) of the three issue run of Weird Tales containing the three part serial of “Red Nails,” the last Conan story Howard wrote. Part 1 appeared in the July 1936 issue, Part 2 in the August-September 1936 issue and Part 3 in the October 1936 issue. The remaining two issues will be published by Girasol in the very near future.

Conan: “Red Nails” Original Art Archives
Speaking of “Red Nails,” some forty years after its original publication, Genesis West has brought the classic 59-page Conan tale adapted by Roy Thomas and Barry (Windsor) Smith to an oversized hardback book. Presented in the size of the original art, this high-line edition faithfully captures the appearance of the actual pages as drawn in 1973. The book is filled with interviews, commentaries and biographies. Hardcover, 14″ x19,” 136 pages, the volume is now out and you can order the book here.

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Conan the Phenomenon
This comprehensive volume has just been republished in softcover by Dark Horse. Originally published in 2007 in a hardcover edition, this groundbreaking volume traces the Cimmerian’s career from 1932 to the present, and features cover art by Frank Frazetta, whose  definitive–and often imitated–Conan artwork set the standard for dynamic fantasy artwork. Roy Thomas, with Barry Smith and John Buscema used the character to push the boundaries of comic-book adventure are also featured. The book includes a section on how Arnold Schwarzenegger launched his amazing film career portraying Conan. Now, with the character’s popularity renewed thanks to the award-winning comics series by Kurt Busiek, Timothy Truman, Cary Nord, and Dave Stewart, all of these eras of Conan are examined under one cover in this lavishly illustrated book. Conan historian Paul Sammon looks at all the stages of the character’s development, with commentary and archival material from the most integral players in that history, in this must-have book for anyone who’s followed the barbarian through any of his incarnations.

SONY DSCThe Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage
Surprisingly, this is the first book devoted to the art of Margaret Brundage. This talented artist forever changed the look of fantasy, science-fiction, and horror with her alluring sensationalistic covers for the legendary pulp magazine, Weird Tales. She was the first cover artist of the pulp era to paint Conan. Brundage was years ahead of her time – her provocative paintings featuring semi-nude young women bearing whips, became a huge scandal in the 1930s, with many newsstands ripping off the covers before selling the magazines. The authors Stephen D. Korshak and J. David Spurlock showcase her artwork and Rowena, Robert Weinberg, and other pay homage to her with essays. There are three editions from a softcover version to a regular hardcover to a limited, slip-cased hardcover edition. It is a big book — 9″ x 12″ — lavishly illustrated in full-color. Published by Vanguard Productions.

Coming Soon:

Western Tales

Western Tales
The REH Foundation Press is now taking pre-orders for the collection of Howard’s western yarns. The humorous westerns will be out in the near future in a two volume set. Also on the horizon are the three remaining boxing books of the four volume collection of Howard’s fistic fiction. Volume One is still available. Additionally, the softcover edition of Mark Finn’s Howard biography, Blood and Thunder can be ordered from the Foundation Press’ Lulu.com Storefront.

Fight Stories  (December 1931)
Due out soon from Adventure House is a pulp replica of the December 1931 issue of Fight Stories featuring Robert E. Howard’s Sailor Steve Costigan in “Circus Fists.” Also available from Adventure house is a replica of the May 1934 issue of Jack Dempsey’s Fight Magazine that includes another Costigan tale, “The Slugger’s Game.”

WeirdTalesCoverGallery1Weird Tales – Pulp Cover Gallery
Coming on October 31st, just in time for Halloween, is a collection of all the Weird Tales covers from Girasol Collectables Inc. The volume has all 279 covers from the original run of the magazine from 1923 to 1954, plus the variant cover of #1. The cover images are the full magazine plus the overhang edges, nothing has been cropped out. All have been retouched to maximize the viewing experience. The collection is a mix of full page scans, size as to the original pulps, as well as some 4 per page and 6 per page. The exterior is made from bonded leather, with a small color cover inset on the front of an issue-of-interest from the interior. There is a brief introduction about the cover art and artists, as well as a title checklist with issue number, date, and cover artist if known. Note this is not a history of the Unique Magazine, but a collection of the covers.

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Pre-Con Bus Trip to Cross Plains

Photos by Barbara Baum

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Howard Heads on Hallowed Ground

Howard Heads on Hallowed Ground (Left to Right) Kneeling: Keith West, John Bullard, Dave Hardy. Standing Jeff Shanks, Paul Herman, Rusty Burke, Partice Louinet, Rob Roehm, Bill Cavalier and myself.)

Worldcon 71 is history and everyone who attended has made it home and had time to reflect on the experience. Due to my work schedule and other factors I was only able to attend on Friday and Saturday (Worldcon ran Thursday, August 29th through Monday, September 2nd), which were probably two of the best days to be there. But some other folks who were there have filled in the gaps I missed for this wrap-up, so off we go.

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The big pre-convention event was Wednesday’s bus trip to Cross Plains (hosted by Rusty Burke and Mark Finn) which was a success despite having only 14 people sign-up for it. Little surprise there since the con PR crew did little to no advance publicity for the trip. In my opinion, they dropped the ball on promoting the convention itself. I did not see any national coverage at all, only some local newspaper and television coverage  – I mean it was the “World Science Fiction Convention” and certainly should been heavily publicized nationally.

Getting back on topic, even though the day trippers were a small group, they were an enthusiastic bunch, touring the Howard House Museum, buying items from the gift shop and eating in the local restaurants — thus giving a shot of revenue to Howard’s hometown. On the return trip to San Antonio, the AV system on the luxury bus screened The Whole Wide World. All in all, the journey made for a fine prelude to Thursday’s opening day of the convention.

I drove from Houston to San Antonio after work on Thursday and met the gang at Dick’s Last Resort on the Riverwalk.  It’s basically a tourist trap where they put paper hats on your heads with insulting sayings written on them, make you wear plastic bibs and generally treat all the customers rudely, hence the  name “Dick’s”  The gang included Rob Roehm, Patrice Louinet, Rusty Burke, Bill Cavalier, Jeff Shanks, Paul Herman and local fan and Legacy Circle member John Bullard. Dave Hardy, his wife Julie and daughter Bridget were also in attendance. After dinner, drinks and some general tormrnting from the staff, we retired to quieter and more pleasant surroundings, namely the bar at the Menger Hotel.

The hotel, built in 1858, is purportedly haunted by the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt; the hotel’s walls are decorated with photos and memorabilia related to our 26th President. Every evening The Menger Bar, which is just steps away from The Alamo, was ground zero for after dinner drinking, hanging out and the general telling of lies.

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Talking Howard and swilling beer at the MengerBar (Left to Right) Jeff Shanks, Patrice Louinet, Dave Hardy, Paul Herman, Bill Cavalier, Rob Roehm and myself.

Friday morning when I arrived at the convention center, I ran into Rob outside and he showed where to check-in and get my badge and other credentials. I then wandered into the exhibit hall and checked out the REH exhibit, as was pretty damn impressive. Next I headed back to the dealers’ room to visit the REH Foundation’s dealer’s table and was pleased to see they had a nice set-up with a large supply of Foundation Press books. However, they were stuck way in the back of the dealers’ room — but as far as I could tell, it didn’t seem to affect the amount of traffic going by the table.

As for the con-goers, nothing to see there. People dressed in Furries, Steampunk, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Star Trek, Dr. Who, and etc. gear — the usual con crowd; other than the person with a beard, dressed as a woman, whose gender was not apparent to me. Obviously, there was a lot of other activities going at the convention in addition to the Howard related events — usually about 20 panels, readings or screenings going on at the same time. Here is TGR blogger Rob Roehm’s reort on the event:

Due to time constraints I wasn’t able to drive to Texas as I prefer, but air travel has its benefits. I arrived late on Wednesday evening, had a Whataburger, and hit the sack. Thursday morning I drove to Victoria, which is the last Texas town mentioned by Robert E. Howard that I hadn’t visited before. Now I’ve seen them all.

Bill Cavalier and Dave Hardy holding down the fort down at the Robert E. Howard Exhibit.

I arrived at the convention center a little after noon and went looking for familiar faces. The first one I saw was Dave Hardy, who was manning the REH exhibit in the big hall. The exhibit was pretty nice, with lots of comics, a few books, and a couple of Howard’s typescripts borrowed from the Cross Plains Public Library. After a quick chat, Hardy pointed me in the direction of the REH Foundation table in the dealers’ section.

At the table, Paul Herman brought me up to speed on what was happening, as well as how to operate the credit card reader for my phone, and then slipped off to be part of a copyright panel. When he returned, I skipped out for lunch with Rusty Burke, Patrice Louinet, and Jeff Shanks. We went down to the River Walk and had sandwiches and beer at an Irish pub. By the time I got back to the dealers’ room, it was almost time to close it down, so I helped out a bit and then we all hit the town.

Bill Cavalier and Paul Herman setting up the REH Foundation table.

And speaking of the dealers’ room, the best part of WorldCon, for me anyway, was Paul Herman. If he hadn’t been so dedicated to the job at hand, I know that I would have been stuck behind the REH Foundation table selling books the whole time. As it was, I had lots of time to screw around. I *almost* feel guilty about it, but not quite.

The REHF Press Dealers' Table

I only watched one panel that I wasn’t part of, and I only participated in three, so I’m not really sure what I was doing most of the time. The panels I was on were fairly well attended, around twenty folks. And these were mostly *new* people, not the fans that stay up-to-date on Damon’s blog and read the current goings-on in Howard Studies. For many of them, Howard studies began and ended with de Camp in the 1970s. And they were generally receptive to having their notions changed. Of course, some of the more old-time fans and authors had a harder time of it. During Rusty Burke’s horror stories panel-the one panel that I watched-I enjoyed seeing him patiently counter some of Harry Turtledove’s comments.

Horror Stories Panel with Damon Sasser, Rusty Burke and Harry Turtledove.

The same thing was happening at the Foundation table. People were surprised to see the many different books by Howard and were almost always completely unaware of the Foundation and the doings of Howard fans in general. We were happy to fill in the blanks.

Of course, the real fun was just hanging out with friends and talking about Robert E. Howard. And it’s even better when you can do that in a city that Howard loved, and that serves alcohol in its restaurants.

Mark Finn was the head honcho as far as planning all the REH panels and wrangling all the contrary Howard Heads to sit in on them — a monumental feat in of itself. You can read Mark’s complete trip report here. Meanwhile, here is a sampling that focuses on the Howard related convention stuff:

Some of you may have noticed that there were, ah, a few panels on Robert E. Howard and his legacy. This was completely intentional. When I was asked to help out with the programming duties, I was told that there were absolutely zero panels on Robert E. Howard at the last Texas WorldCon, in 1997. This is not surprising. The 1990s are something of a Dark Ages for Howard Studies, with no copies of Howard’s own Conan books on the shelves and no real intentions to do so. It wasn’t until around the late 1990s that Wandering Star entered the picture, with their desire to produce authoritative texts of Howard’s work, in deluxe hardcover editions, and with high end illustrations. That was the start of the REH Renaissance, really. So, a lot has happened in the thirteen years between Texas WorldCons. A lot.

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That track of programming was a corrective, and it was extremely successful. We had large crowds for most of the panels (the poetry stuff was a bust, frankly, and no one could find the film programming to come see “Barbarian Days”) and lot of participation. But in particular, I slanted the panels to hit the older fans. When I came down for the big meeting in April, I had two people pull me aside—older men, both—and tell me how pleased and excited they were to see that REH was going to be on the panels this year. They were big fans, they told me, and read all of that stuff in the 1970s. I asked them, “Have you been keeping up with what we’ve been doing in the past fifteen years?” Oh, no, they said. They just read the books and really enjoyed them, but they haven’t looked at them since the seventies. Heh. Okay, guys, this panel’s for you.

"The First Barbarian of Texas" --  Patrice Louinet and Mark Finn, with John Maddox Roberts (far right) and Patrick Nielsen Hayden (far left)

I intentionally loaded the topics to entice the older fans. We had an obligatory Conan panel, and that room was packed. Even better, it was a smashing success. I opened it up to talk about pop culture Conan, and everyone stayed right on Robert E. Howard’s Conan the whole time. Fantastic. And the more we talked about corrupted texts, bad biographical practices, ulterior motives, and the complicated relationship between the fans and L. Sprague de Camp, I saw more light bulbs going on behind these guys’ eyes. Oh, there were a few of them who wanted to debate the point, citing de Camp’s standing as a gifted and talented author, and blah blah blah. I told one of them what I always say, which is that de Camp was great for Conan, but really lousy for Robert E. Howard. That pretty much ended the discussion.We opened a lot of eyes and changed a lot of minds over the four day weekend.

The Robert E. Howard exhibit got a lot of traffic, as did the Robert E. Howard Foundation Table. Lots of books were sold, memberships handed out, and we all had a ton of great conversations with people who were genuinely interested in REH, his works, and what we were doing there. It was everything that we wanted WFC 2006 to be, and more.

“Beyond the Barbarian: Robert E. Howard’s Other Heroes” Panel

“Beyond the Barbarian: Robert E. Howard’s Other Heroes” Panel (Left to Right) Rob Roehm, David Spurlock, Dave Hardy, Mel White and John Maddox Roberts.

Like me, Howard fan and blogger Keith West also arrived in San Antonio late Thursday. Here is an excerpt from his trip report on his Adventures Fantastic blog (He also blogs at the Amazing Stories website):

The next day [Friday] was one of those where there was about twelve hours of programming I wanted to attend, all of it in a three hour block. I went to most of the Robert E. Howard panels, of which there were many. Most of the hanging out I did with friends was with members of the Robert E. Howard Foundation or chatting with folks at parties. Saturday was much the same, but Sunday was a little more relaxed. Among the non-Howard panels I attended were a discussion of C. L. Moore’s “Vintage Season”, the history of firearms in the 1800s, a reading by Jack McDevitt, a discussion on writing that included Michael Swanwick and James Patrick Kelly, a panel of Texas writers who have passed on, and readings by Jack McDevitt and Howard Waldrop. I only caught part of the panel on sword and sorcery since it was up against one of the more interesting Robert E. Howard panels. The autographing lines were either nonexistent or ridiculously long, so I only got a few signatures.

I went to the Alamo Saturday morning with Bill Cavalier, editor of REHupa. He hadn’t seen it, and it had been a while since I had paid my respects. Next to the Alamo is the Menger Hotel. Teddy Roosevelt recruited the Rough Riders in the bar, and it’s something of a mini-museum. I’ll do a write-up of it on Dispatches From the Lone Star Front over the weekend.

I didn’t try to attend the Hugos. I wasn’t impressed with the slate of nominees for the most part. But it’s a popularity contest, and currently my tastes and those of the field are in a state of moderate divergence. The Legacy Circle of the REH Foundation went to dinner Saturday night.

The REH Foundation Legacy Circle Dinner

The REH Foundation Legacy Circle Dinner (Left to Right) Paul Herman, Bill Cavalier, Rusty Burke, Dave Hardy, Damon Sasser, Jeff Shanks, Patrice Louinet, Rob Roehm, John Bullard and Ben Friberg (Keith West is the photographer).

My first panel was Friday at 4:00 pm “Two-Gun Bob: The Somewhat True Tales of Robert E. Howard.” The turnout was pretty good, as were the questions from the audience, though I found the guy wearing the pink bunny ears to be distracting. I had another panel at 8:00, “Nameless Cults: Robert E. Howard’s Horror Stories,” which had a pretty sparse showing of attendees — they scheduled a screening of The Whole Wide World at the same time, which certainly siphoned off of the potential attendees.

"Two-Gun Bob: The Somewhat True Tales of Robert E. Howard

“Two-Gun Bob: The Somewhat True Tales of Robert E. Howard” Panel (Left to Right) Mark Finn, Patrice Louinet, myself, Rob Roehm and Rusty Burke.

On Saturday I was only on one panel: “The Howard Boom” Barbarians, Fanzines and the 1970s,” which was interesting since I was the only one there who actually participated in the 1970s Howard Boom! Later that afternoon, I caught the “Robert E. Howard: The Weird, West and Worms” academic panel. It was one of the best, but there were only six or seven us in the audience. That was a shame because Mark and Jeff presented two of their excellent PCA papers: “Vaqueros and Vampires: Robert E Howard and the Genesis of the Weird Western” and “Evolutionary Otherness: Anthropological Anxiety in Robert E. Howard’s “Worms of the Earth”

Mark, Jeff, Chris, Patrice, Rusty, Rob and others have been working overtime to get Howard the literary credit he  deserves. If we, as Howard fans want to have his writings make some serious inroads into academia, we really have to get behind these guys, show our support and help them any way we can to further the cause. This convention was a good start, but there is still a lot of work left to be done.

When it was all said and done, Worldcon was certainly a big stage to show off Howard studies and just how it’s come in recent years. There were no Howard panels at the 1997 Worldcon, which was also held in San Antonio, The World Fantasy Con in 2006 corrected that slight somewhat, but Worldcon 71 blew the doors off with its great Howard presence. It looks like the future of Howard’s literary legacy is so bright, we all are going to have to wear shades.

Watch for “Worldcon 71: A Photo Gallery” coming soon!

Photos courtesy of Barbara Baum, Rusty Burke, Patrice Louinet, Dennis McHaney, Rob Roehm and Keith West.

IMGIt is interesting to note the W. H. Pugmire blurb on the back cover to S. T. Joshi’s The Assaults of Chaos: A Novel about Lovecraft.  “With this fantastic novel,” Pugmire writes, “S. T. Joshi incorporates his thorough understanding of H. P. Lovecraft’s life and times, couples it with an evocative imagination and superb writing style, and gives us one of the most astonishing novels that I have ever read.  Lovecraft lives within these pages.  The book is a commanding celebration of a man—and a genre!”

What makes this especially interesting is that only a few days earlier I had read Joshi’s frothing-at-the-mouth, near-maniacal review of John D. Haefele’s A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos: Origins of the Cthulhu Mythos—a book I had sampled, and liked, back in February of this year—in which Joshi calls this noted Modern Cthulhu Mythos author the “genial W. H. Pugmire” and then says “but no one takes him seriously as a critic.”

Who to believe? Pugmire in re: Joshi’s Cthulhu Mythos novel? Or Joshi in re: Pugmire?  Tough choice.

To be fair, it should be noted that I was no fan of a book very similar to Joshi’s novel, Shadows Bend: A Novel of the Fantastic and Unspeakable, by David Barbour and Richard Raleigh.  Lovecraftian horrors abound in that novel, as the authors present us with Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith as fictional characters that ultimately team up and make war against dark forces.

I’ve posted here before that I dislike most works of fiction containing factual personalities—and Shadows Bend is a good example of this prejudice.  I don’t see Howard, or Lovecraft, or Smith as the two authors present them to be, and that’s a big problem.  When Howard starts acting like I don’t think Howard should act, the book starts to crawl and it just becomes silly and unrewarding reading and not worth finishing — although in my trademarked masochistic way, I did.

And that explains some of my bad feelings toward The Assaults of Chaos.  Joshi brings in many of the great imaginative writers that he’s edited for publishers such as Chaosium, Penguin, or Library of America, as in his novel we meet, H. P. Lovecraft, of course, and Ambrose Bierce, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood, William Hope Hodgson and, at the very end, Edgar Allan Poe.

These authors, just like the fictionalized writers in Shadows Bend, have to team up and defeat a Lovecraftian creation; in this case it’s the Crawling Chaos, Nyarlathotep.  One huge difference in Joshi’s work is that he doesn’t use his own imagination when he has his characters speak—he takes passages from their works and liberally sprinkles them throughout the text.

A good example of this occurs when the literary group first meet Machen and he starts to tell them about his early days in London, and part of his narration concerns how, lacking much space, he stacked his books upon the steps of a ladder—any fan of Machen’s beautiful Far Off Things will remember that particular scene, and Joshi recites it, almost word for word.

S.T. JoshiThis happens continually throughout the book and Joshi in a Postscript explains it.  “This novel,” he writes, “is a pastiche in the strictest sense of the term, deriving from the Italian pasticchio, a medley or patchwork stitched together from previous texts.”  Joshi must particularly like this Machen quote—to my knowledge he’s used it three different times.  First, in the Chaosium edition of The Three Imposters and Other Stories, next in the Penguin Classics volume The White People and Other Weird Stories, and lastly in his Lovecraft novel (and I’m betting elsewhere as well).  He obviously admires fine writing and he certainly can’t be blamed for that; like quite a few of us he probably wishes he could write as well as Machen.

This is where, for all its faults, Shadows Bend is a more imaginative book. Barbour and Raleigh had to work at getting their character’s voices authentic, and even though they failed, they tried; Joshi’s pastiche made me wonder why I was taking the time out to read this book when I could just be reading the original stories or the autobiographical material.

Now any fan of Joshi’s would expect this book to be a solid addition to the Mythos because S. T. Joshi has, for years, been telling everybody how not to write a Mythos story — holding up Brian Lumley and August Derleth as prime examples of writers whose eldritch footsteps not to follow in.  Only about a year ago Joshi gave an interview and once again singled out Robert E. Howard as an author “whose pulp fiction is woefully slovenly on the level of prose and is often uninspired and formulaic.”

NyarlathotepWell, if you crave uninspired, The Assaults of Chaos is as uninspired as you can get.  Not until page 182 of this 244-page novel are we introduced to Nyarlathotep, who has been masquerading as Lovecraft’s supposedly dead father while gathering together all these noted literary figures.

So the first three-fourths of this book is completely absent of action—it’s pretty much a Joshi ramble down literary lane as he repetitiously, and tediously, introduces us to these writers by quoting from their works, and so all the really good passages come from authors no longer living.

The one action scene that Joshi attempts to pull off on his own occurs when his H. P. Lovecraft loses his virginity to the neighbor’s daughter, Kathleen Banigan, and that’s a disaster.  Joshi writes that HPL and Kathleen are at her house “and things were getting pretty hot” and I’ll let you imagine the rest.

Come on, “things were getting hot” is how Joshi describes a sex scene?  Ridiculous.  Another howler: “An untidy mountain of earth stood before them.”  Seriously, how many tidy mountains of earth have you seen?

Needless to say, the protagonist of this book is not the Lovecraft I’ve come to admire and respect, and the sex scene, and others involving Kathleen, do nothing to speed the book along.  Kathleen, like all the characters in this book, is one-dimensional. Joshi should really study writers such as Robert E. Howard more deeply — perhaps he could pick up a few pointers on how to depict action and handle characterization.

This novel finally drags to an end with our legendary writers using their imaginations to defeat Nyarlathotep. You read it right; their imaginations.  It descends into silliness, and bogs down with Joshi merely quoting, once again, almost verbatim from their stories.

Simply put, the book becomes an unliterary chaos and is an assault on my reading time.  “There is so much literature out there to read that it doesn’t seem productive to waste time in inferior products”—that’s a direct quote from Joshi and I’ll take him up on it.  I certainly will never waste my time by giving this book a second look, or any other of his “inferior products.”  (To stray just a bit from Mythos fiction, in the chapbook Suicide in Brooklyn, part of his Joe Scintilla series, Joshi, having Scintilla as the narrator of the tale, writes, “I was smart and I was tough. I had a gun and knew how to use it.”  If you can keep from laughing after reading that either you have a stronger stomach than I do or you’re more used to reading bad fiction and can’t live without a sampling of clichés.)

THe Mask of CthulhuYou want something better to read in the Mythos arena?  Pick up Derleth’s The Mask of Cthulhu or anything written by those pulp writers who knew or corresponded with H. P. L. and discover wordsmiths who definitely worked with a surer hand than Joshi; these fellows, even though Joshi always faults them because they wrote for money, knew how to craft a plot that was gripping.

Perhaps the most bizarre moment in this book occurs when Nyarlathotep ends a heated conversation with Lovecraft by saying “It is to laugh!”  I don’t know where Joshi picked up this arresting quip, but I do know that it occurs in the 1958 Warner Brothers cartoon Robin Hood Daffy.  Daffy, talking to Porky Pig, who’s in the Friar Tuck role, expresses dissatisfaction by saying, “Ho Ho! Very funny.  Ha Ha! It is to laugh!”  I’m willing to bet that most of Joshi’s readers will remember this quote from that classic cartoon and will be struck by the use of a Daffy Duck quote in an exchange between Nyarlathotep and H. P. Lovecraft.  What the hell.  What’s next?  Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd go hunting for some Cthulhu monsters? “Bam! Cthulhu stew!” Th-th-th-that’s all folks!