Archive for the 'Howard Fandom' Category
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.”
Weird 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It 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.
This 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.”
Well, 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.)
You 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!
When I first picked up a copy of The Dark Barbarian back in 1984 I was, of course, impressed with the quality of the essays, but to me the best part of that anthology was Steve Eng’s section dealing with the books owned by Robert E. Howard. The Eng list undoubtedly sent many Howard fans and scholars into second-hand bookstores, and I imagine many a vanished writer got dusted off and resurrected into a second literary life.
But for me it really wasn’t until I reached the computer age that I was able to join the library-book hunt, and since I enjoy boxing, I naturally gravitated to the pugilistic literature owned by REH, and that led me to a certain H. C. Witwer, represented on Howard’s shelves by two books, The Leather Pushers and Fighting Back.
Harry Charles Witwer was one of the leading sports writers in Howard’s time and was pretty popular around 1920-1925, making, and apparently spending money, like he’d have it forever. One of my Witwer items is a typed, signed letter from 1921, and it’s very interesting.
H. C. writes that when he was in New York he was “rushing to movie studios to watch [his] pictures being made” and was constantly being photographed and interviewed. Even his wife was in on the publicity, being “interviewed silly” by women authors for different magazines. He also mentions that The Leather Pushers is being made into a movie, and of course, he has a “royalty interest in that, too.” Evidently around this same time he sold the “rights to a five-reeler” and earned $7,500 on that deal. I’m not knowledgeable about what that would be worth in the dollars of today, but a new Ford in 1920 came in at around two hundred and sixty bucks, so it is a fair piece of change, certainly more than what Robert E. Howard would be making when he started his writing career. Witwer, according to this letter now a resident of Los Angeles, writes that when he arrived in California he “bought a beautiful two-story, 10 room house with double garage, big lawn front and back, fruit trees, etc, on October 3 and moved in with $3,000 worth of furniture on Oct 10.”
But all was not idyllic in the Witwer world, as he evidently had quite a problem with the bottle. At the beginning of his letter he admits that he has fallen off the wagon and went off on a binge that “lasted about two weeks” and this drinking bout cost—get ready—“about $2,000.” Wow! That has to be worth at least 4,000 to 10,000 dollars in the currency of today, and where was a guy like this in my drinking days? Seriously, after this mammoth drinking spree he adds that he “wound up as usual under the care of the medicos.”
Born in 1890, Witwer died young, passing from the scene in 1929 due to liver failure, and of course I can’t help but think his drinking had to have had something to do with his death. One cool little tidbit about Fighting Blood, another Witwer novel made into a movie, is that “Kid” McCoy, a boxing favorite of Howard’s, was one of the actors in the film.
So where is Witwer now? Pretty much unknown, and that’s sad, always is sad when a competent writer is forgotten. After all these years the majority of his fans have died, and there just wasn’t enough interest in Witwer to excite new, younger readers who could interject some fresh blood into a once very popular author.
And that brings me back to Howard, who, thanks to very staunch support among his fans, is still going strong and will soon pass the hundred-year mark of continually being read, still having an audience who are excited when a new book rolls out, even if the book just contains stories they already have. That’s fans, and Howard has lots of ‘em. So just remember all you Howard lovers out there, if you stop reading REH all the blog posts I could write, or anyone could write, will mean nothing, because you won’t be there to care. When the death of fandom creeps upon a writer the once raucous scene turns very silent, as in the case with Witwer and his departed following. When readers become scarce, the literary world grows so quiet that the sound of the chirping of crickets becomes not only deafening, but also a bit terrifying.
Well, Two-Gun Bob has made it to the big time — he has a display of his writings and publications at the Harry Ransom Center. As noted in my previous post, the Center acquired the Glenn Lord Collection of Howard’s typescripts. Here is a blurb from the official press release:
Howard maintained a regular correspondence for six years with fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft, and the two debated the merits of civilization vs. barbarianism, cities and society vs. the frontier, the mental vs. the physical and other subjects. Some of this correspondence is preserved in the collection.
Other highlights in the collection include Howard’s hand-drawn map of Earth in the Hyborian Age, the setting for his Conan stories; original typescripts of works such as “The Hour of the Dragon” and ”The God in the Bowl”; and a handwritten draft of his play “Bran Mak Morn.”
Lord became a collector of Howard’s work in the 1950s and amassed the world’s largest collection of Howard’s stories, poems and letters. Lord served as the literary agent for Howard’s heirs for almost 30 years, and his collection was used as the source text for almost every published Howard work appearing in books and magazines between 1965 and 1997.
The materials will be accessible once processed and cataloged. Two cases of Howard materials will be on display in the Ransom Center’s lobby through Sept. 3.
Whether it is a coincidence or not, this display runs concurrently with Worldcon 71, which has a heavy emphasis on REH in its program line-up. Austin is pretty darn close to San Antonio, so it is certainly worth a little side trip if you are attending the convention and have the time to see this fantastic display of Howardia.
Excellent news story on YouTube about Glenn, REH and the collection donated to the Harry Ransom Center.
Photos courtesy the Harry Ransom Center.
Two weeks from tomorrow, Worldcon 71 kicks off in the Alamo City. The event is being hosted by LoneStarCon 3 and, of course, will have a large number of Robert E. Howard panels and programs on the schedule. And the Howard events even get a jumpstart on the convention with a bus trip to Cross Plains to visit the Howard House Museum the day before Worldcon officially starts!
The Wednesday bus tour, hosted by Rusty Burke and Mark Finn, is virtually identical to the one from the 2006 World Fantasy Con. Acting as your guides, Rusty and Mark will be pointing out places of interest along the way. Once in Cross Plains, the first stop is the historical Robert E. Howard House Museum, next is a lunch break, and lastly a quick tour of the Cross Plain Public Library and downtown Cross Plains, and then it’s back on the bus for the return trip to San Antonio. While the trip takes twelve hours, you’ll find the time will fly by since you will be riding in a luxury bus, which should have a DVD player, so there’s a good chance you’ll see The Whole Wide World on the way back, plus Mark will have some Violet Crown Radio Players CDs with him to entertain you as well.
As for the Howard related panels and events beginning Thursday the 29th of August, here is the rundown:
Worldcon REH-Themed Panels
Note: This does not include the panels that are about larger topics that would include REH, such as the Texas Gothic panel and the Weird Texas Author panel. Nor does it include other panels that Howardists will be on. This is the list of concentrated REH panels. The Worldcon Robert E. Howard program is three times the size of the program at the 2006 World Fantasy Convention.
Thu. 12:00 – Thu. 13:00, Location: 008A
The First Barbarian of Texas: Conan the Cimmerian (Literature, Panel)
Thu. 13:00 – Thu. 14:00, Location: 101B
You Don’t Know Jack about Bob: What’s New in Robert E. Howard Studies (Authors, Panel)
Fri. 10:00 – Fri. 11:00, Location: 102B
Beyond the Barbarian: Robert E. Howard’s Other Heroes (Literature, Panel)
Fri. 13:00 – Fri. 14:00, Location: Conference 1 (Rivercenter)
Barbarian Days: Starring the BNFs of Howard Fandom (Screening)
Fri 16:00 – Fri. 17:00, Location: 102B
Two-Gun Bob: The Somewhat True Tales of Robert E. Howard (Panel)
Fri. 18:00 – Fri. 19:00, Location: Exh A – Literary Beers
The Robert E. Howard Poetry Slam! (Poetry, Open Mike)
Fri. 20:00 – Fri. 21:00, Location: 006B (160AV)
Nameless Cults: Robert E. Howard’s Horror Stories (Literature, Panel)
Fri. 20:00 – Fri. 22:00, Location: 007CD
The Whole Wide World (Authors, Film / Video) (Screening)
Sat. 10:00 – Sat 11:00, Location: 007CD
The Weird Western: A Celebratory Explanation (Literature, Panel)
Sat. 12:00 – Sat. 13:00, Location: 102B
The Howard Boom: Barbarians, Fanzines, and the 1970s (Fannish, Panel)
Sat. 15:00 – Sat. 16:00, Location: 003B
The Poetry of Robert E. Howard: The Dark Bard of Texas (Poetry, Panel), (Academic/Poet)
Sat. 17:00 – Sat. 18:00, Location: 006B
Robert E. Howard: The Weird, West, and Worms (Academic, Talk)
Sun. 13:00 – Sun. 14:00, Location: 102A
The Wild, Weird, and Wonderful Westerns of Robert E. Howard (Literature, Panel)
Sun. 18:00 – Sun. 19:00, Location: 006A
Robert E. Howard at the Ice House (Literature, Panel)
The convention is being held in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, located in downtown San Antonio and just a short distance from the world famous River Walk. The Convention Center has two halls (each over 120,000 square feet), large ballrooms, and scores of smaller meeting rooms. The Marriott Rivercenter and Marriott River Walk are the host hotels, with the nearby Hilton Palacio Del Rio handling the overflow of guests. You can enjoy the Rivercenter Mall with dozens of shops and restaurants, along with other venues for food and shopping situated on the River Walk. The mall, hotels and convention center are linked by the Paseo del Rio (River Walk), a portion of the San Antonio River.
It is going to be a Labor Day weekend to remember for Howard Heads, with a who’s-who’s of Howard aficionados in attendance and participating on the panels.
On Friday, July 26th, I was privileged to be among the select few present at the pretigious Harry Ransom Center on the University of Texas Campus in Austin when the Lord family formally donated the 14,000 pages of Robert E. Howard typescripts Glenn had collected throughout his lifetime. To say it was a momentous occasion would be an understatement. The entire collection fit into nine boxes (eight of which are shown above) and contains stories, poems and letters. In addition to Glenn’s wife Lou Ann, son James, daughter Glenda and his three living granchildren, myself, Jack and Barbara Baum, Rusty Burke, Mark Finn, Paul Herman and Dennis McHaney were also in attendance.
Twenty years before his death, Glenn Lord was pondering what to do with his massive collection of original Howard typescripts when he would eventually pass away. That was 1991 and Paul Herman was attending law school at the University of Texas and while visiting with Glenn one day, Glenn asked Paul what he should do with his vast collection, which included thousands of pages of Howard’s original manuscripts. Glenn considered the Houston Public Library. While the library is a fine organization, it is not a world-class archival facility. They wouldn’t know what to do with such a valuable and rare collection. A light bulb went off above Paul’s head and he suggested the Harry Ransom Center. While he had never been to the facility, he knew of it and they work that was done there to preserves valuable, historical items. So he got in contact with Dr. Richard Orem, who was and still is the head librarian for the Center. What is the Harry Ransom Center you may ask? Here is a brief description from the Center’s Wikipedia webpage:
The Harry Ransom Center is an archive, library and museum at the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in the collection of literary and cultural artifacts from the United States and Europe for the purpose of advancing the study of the arts and humanities. The Ransom Center houses 36 million literary manuscripts, 1 million rare books, 5 million photographs, and more than 100,000 works of art. The Center has a reading room for scholars and galleries which display rotating exhibitions of works and objects from the collections.
Paul asked Dr. Orem if he knew who Robert E. Howard was. Dr. Orem replied he did and further stated the Center had a collection of his books. Then Paul asked him if he had ever heard of Glenn Lord. Dr. Orem replied in the affirmative and said the Center had a set of The Howard Collector. Next Paul laid out the proposal for Glenn to donate the Howard typescripts when he passed on. Dr. Orem enthusiastically agreed and arranged for Paul to take a behind the scenes tour of the facility. Impressed, Paul soon returned with Glenn and they were given the grand tour. And so it was settled – when the time came, Howard’s typescripts would be donated to the Center, preserved and maintained for future generations to view, study and use for scholarship.
Well, that time has come. The formal announcement was made today and soon Howard fans and scholars will have complete access to Howard’s manuscripts.
It took a bit of doing to get the boxes of typescripts ready to donate, as described by Paul over on the Robert E. Howard Forums, but the collection is right where it belongs — saved for posterity just as Glenn wished it to be. An invaluable legacy that will live on forever.
Here is a video from Austin television station KXAN on the donation of the Lord collection to the Harry Ransom center filmed by Ben Friberg.
Photos courtesy Barbara Baum, the Harry Ransom Center and Dennis McHaney.
As 1963 began, and as things would continue for decades, Glenn Lord was the receptacle of all things Howard: biographical and publishing information trickled in from Tevis Clyde Smith, E. Hoffmann Price, Lenore and Harold Preece, and others; fanzine editors requested information for their publications; and an ever-growing legion of fans and pulp aficionados traded information, copies, and publications with the god-father of Howard studies. The situation on the business side looked like this: Alla Ray Kuykendall and her daughter owned the rights to Robert E. Howard’s works. These works were offered for sale (or, more likely, requested by publishers who remembered Howard) by Oscar J. Friend, who retained the business name of his predecessor, Otis A. Kline Associates. Business was pretty slow. Besides the Arkham House collection The Dark Man and Others and Glenn Lord’s Howard Collector #4, only one other new publication with a Howard story appeared that year (and not until December).
In a January 21, 1963 postcard to Glenn Lord, Lyon Sprague de Camp says a bit about that last appearance: “The proposed anthology is the one I wrote about in AMRA, of short stories & novelettes of heroic fantasy.” This was the Pyramid Books collection Swords and Sorcery. In his introduction to the anthology, de Camp laid out his view regarding the worth of the material therein: “The purpose of these stories is neither to teach the problems of the steel industry, nor to expose the defects in our foreign-aid program, nor yet to air the problems of the housewife. It is to entertain. These stories combine the color, gore, and action of the costume novel with the atavistic terrors and delights of the fairy tale. They furnish the purest fun to be found in fiction today.” In his preface to the Howard story, “Shadows in the Moonlight,” he presented what would be the standard view of the writer from Texas for decades:
For vivid, violent, gripping, headlong action, the stories of ROBERT ERVIN HOWARD (1906-36) take the prize among heroic fantasies. Howard was born and lived in Cross Plains, Texas [sic: born at Peaster], attended Brownsville College [sic: Howard Payne in Brownwood], and during his short life turned out a large volume of general pulp fiction: sport, detective, western, and oriental adventure stories besides his fantasies. Although a big, powerful man like his heroes, he suffered delusions of persecution and killed himself in an excess of emotion over his aged mother’s death.
Later introductions would add “Oedipal complex” to the mix of Howard’s emotional problems. But let’s get back to the business.
Besides the above, in de Camp’s postcard to Glenn, he added that “Otis Kline Associates is Oscar [Friend] + one lady assistant who mostly types. I don’t know if anybody will carry on the business when Oscar shuffles, but some other agent might buy up the residual business.” Little did de Camp know, but Oscar Friend had died two days before this postcard was typed.
Being ignorant of Friend’s death, Lord wrote to the Kline Agency, again requesting material. This was not the first time; he had made several inquiries in the years since Always Comes Evening—most to no effect. His letter was answered on January 30 by Friend’s daughter, Kittie West:
Dear Mr. Lord:
My father, Oscar J. Friend, passed away on Jan. 19th—peacefully, in his sleep.
My Mother (the Irene M. Ozment on the letterhead) and I (K. F. West) are slowly notifying various clients and catching up on current business.
As yet we have had no time to go through the older files and the stacks of books and manuscripts on hand. When we do, we shall see what Howard material is on hand and inform the estate handling Howard material as to what we have. Meanwhile, please be patient with us, as there are many things which Mr. Friend carried in his head—and which we must slowly piece out and attend to.
Possibly you may obtain the material you want directly from the estate. However, we shall keep in touch with you—and perhaps handle it ourselves. We just don’t know at this point what we are going to do.
Yours very truly,
By fall, things were, apparently, still disorganized. A postcard from de Camp to Lord explains that the agency is “carrying on the remaining accounts but not trying to expand the business.” On September 27, 1963, Lord responded to a letter (now lost) from West:
Dear Mrs. West:
Thank you for the nice letter. I can well understand the problems inherent in transferring a mass of possessions from one house to another; a problem that has been familiar with me in the past.
I suppose that you might call Robert E. Howard my hobby, much like one might say H. P. Lovecraft was a “hobby” of August Derleth. I have made several trips to the area of Texas where Mr. Howard lived and know several of his cronies. One of them [Clyde Smith] was an occasional writer and collaborator with Howard and claims to have a couple of mss. that they wrote. Again the problem is the unearthing of said items!
The titles in your possession came from a listing that Mr. Derleth kindly made for me last year after your father sent the Howard mss. to him for examination for possible use in the Arkham House volume of Howard stories due later this year. The descriptions also came from Derleth. He wrote me that he had placed the mss. in some 6 kraft envelopes with a listing on each of the contents. According to my records, “Kelly, the Conjure-Man” and “The Last White Man” are in envelope #3 and “Knife, Bullet and Noose” in envelope #6. That may be of little help in your task however.
I suspect that Donald Grant of Grandon: Publishers will contact you shortly on the matter of a volume of Howard’s Oriental adventure stories. That will be a sort of cooperative venture between Mr. Grant and myself—I seem to have “inherited” the role of “Howard expert” though such is not exactly the case!
In your filing of the material in your possession, would you kindly note if you have a novel by Mr. Howard entitled Post Oaks and Sand Roughs. Supposedly a “modern” novel, this was written in the late 1920s and may have been destroyed later. Also if you come across the letters from Howard to Mr. Kline, would you be willing to loan these to me for possible use in a Selected Letters volume that I hope to edit and compile some day. I say some day as locating old correspondence is a difficult task. I realize I am being a lot of trouble but the agency seems the last bastion of interest in Howard, as Mr. Friend once put it.
Enclosed check for $27.40 for the use of the Howard material.
And that wasn’t the only place Glenn was looking for Howard letters. He also wrote to de Camp asking about the material in Friend’s archives, to which de Camp replied in a February 8, 1964 letter:
No, there were no Howard letters in that pile of mss at Oscar Friend’s house. The letters were probably filed separately, and I don’t know if the files still exist. The only personal piece was the little handwritten note from Lovecraft to Howard, which is printed on page 8 of King Conan.
At some point in 1963-64, West completed at least four deals for the Howard heirs, all of which appeared in 1964. From the Kline stack of typescripts, Arkham House published “The Blue Flame of Vengeance” in its Over the Edge anthology. The story is listed as “completed” by John Pocsik, but the typescript was complete as is, and the story’s appearance here was “drastically rewritten,” as de Camp told Lord in a June 8, 1964 letter. The Pyramid anthology Weird Tales has “Pigeons from Hell,” as does the Panther Books reprint of the 1944 Sleep No More anthology. Finally, West closed a deal with Ace Books which resulted in the first paperback appearance of Howard’s novel Almuric. And there were more paperbacks being envisioned.
On August 22, 1964, de Camp told Lord that “SWORDS & SORCERY did well enough so that Pyramid has authorized a successor” and also that he was “trying to promote a deal for reprinting all the Conan stories in paperback,” but this deal wasn’t far enough along to give details. On September 24, de Camp gave West a glimpse of his plans, saying that he spoke to her “of a projected deal for republication of Howard’s Conan stories in paperback, with me as editor[.] Well, it looks as if that were going through.” He explains that he will be in New York soon and “may want some of the old Howard mss in your collection,” and offers to swing by her house to pick them up. He then adds, “please look through the collection of Howard mss and extract from it any Conan stories, especially ‘The Frost-Giant’s Daughter,’ ‘The God in the Bowl,’ and ‘The Black Stranger.’” An October 24 letter goes into more detail regarding the project, but, unfortunately, we only have the first page of it. That page ends cryptically with de Camp saying: “I don’t see that it is at all necessary for you [West] to prepare a formal contract in standard form, other than the letter I wrote [. . .]”
A postcard from de Camp to Lord, written January 27, 1965, provides an update on the former Kline Agency: “Kittie West is trying slowly to liquidate the Kline agency, but this is a long-drawn-out process that may take years.” Four days later, de Camp wrote to West, paying the last installment of fees for his use of “Shadows in Zamboula” in the Pyramid collection The Spell of Seven (June 1964). That anthology contains Howard’s story, “Shadows in Zamboula,” as well as de Camp’s thoughts on the author:
Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan, was a Texan and a prolific writer of pulp-magazine fiction in the early 1930s. Despite certain literary faults, Howard was one of the greatest natural story-tellers the genre has produced. Nobody has excelled him in constructing a fast-moving, smoothly-flowing tale of headlong, violent, gripping action. His stories are not only readable but also endlessly rereadable. Unfortunately, Howard was also maladjusted to the point of psychosis. In 1936, at the age of thirty, he ended a promising literary career by suicide.
Included in de Camp’s letter to West is his advice on how to deal with Martin Greenberg (of Gnome Press) if he should get litigious. Not long after receiving this letter, West forwarded it to Glenn Lord, writing a short note on the corner and asking, “Is Sprague getting a little greedy?”
On February 5, 1965, word was apparently getting out that West was looking to “liquidate” the Kline files. On that day, Donald A. Wollheim wrote to West, saying, in part, “I recall, many years ago when visiting your father, that he had a stack of these old unsold manuscripts, stories, etc. [. . .] since you have closed down the Kline agency, do you still have any of these old literary files? In Howard’s case, who could you give them to or what could you have done with them? If you still have any of this REH material stored away, would you let me know? This is primarily a personal inquiry as a former correspondent of Howard’s as well as one of his publishers.”
De Camp had news of a different sort that he shared with Glenn Lord in a February 18 postcard:
Mrs. K. F. west, who has been winding up the Otis Kline Agency business, asked me if I should be willing to “take over” the custody and management of the Howard mss in her possession. I said I couldn’t consider it, because of other commitments; and I took the liberty of suggesting your name to her as the person who ought to have charge of them.
In a letter to West that same day, de Camp explained his reasoning:
I’m afraid I absolutely cannot consider “taking over” the Howard material, since I have enough work of my own contracted for and planned to keep me busy for years. If anybody should take charge of it, I should suggest Glenn Lord, Box 775, Pasadena, Texas, 77501. He is the outstanding living idolater of Howard and would, I am sure, do the best he could for Howard’s reputation. Moreover, being a fellow Texan, he could much more easily keep in touch with Mrs. Kuykendall than anybody in the Northeast could.
He added that Greenberg had been “huffing and puffing again, and Lancer Books has been hesitating to go ahead with their first two volumes [of Conan material] for fear of a nuisance suit. In view of this development, I fear I shall have to make my second offer [to prepare the Conan books] a bit less favorable to the estate than the first one I made to you, in order not to end up out of pocket as a result of possible litigation.” In a March 11th letter, de Camp made his case to the Kuykendalls, explaining that “if the complete series is published, the estate stands to make over a thousand dollars from this publication.”
By March 26, 1965, Glenn Lord had accepted the position of agent for the Howard heirs. On that day, Kittie West sent “a box containing tear sheets & mss. Also the old file with Dr. Kuykendall’s correspondence” to Glenn. She also sent a letter to Glenn and Mrs. Kuykendall that explains the state of the Howard property at that time. On April 27, Mrs. Kuykendall wrote to Glenn: “I am pleased and relieved that you have accepted the handling of the Howard manuscripts. I hope that further publications can be arranged.” Kuykendall closed with the following:
Shortly after Dr. Howard’s death, we sent a trunk filled with Robert’s papers to a man in California—Redwood City, I believe. Mr. Kline or Mr. Friend advised us to do so. Do you recognize who it was? I have forgotten. Perhaps Mrs. West will remember.
And so the business of Robert E. Howard publishing continued. In the months to come, Glenn finally found and acquired the fabled Trunk of Howard manuscripts which helped fuel the Howard Boom, but that is a tale for another time. With the Otis A. Kline Agency officially out of business, it was left to Glenn to navigate the mess between de Camp, Greenberg, and Lancer Books. Besides this, West also forwarded a couple of other deals that were in the works, including a new arrangement with Robert Lowndes, publisher of the Magazine of Horror. The June 1965 issue of that magazine contains “Skulls in the Stars.” That same month, on the 22nd, Kittie West sent Glenn Lord the last of the agency’s files related to Robert E. Howard, excepting their accounting books. She ended her letter with a note: “Good luck with the work—and watch out for co-authors, new publishers, etc!”