Robert E. Howard had a long career in amateur publications. He started with his high school newspaper, The Tattler, and continued with his college paper, The Yellow Jacket; he also had work published in The Daniel Baker Collegian and Baylor College’s United Statement. Between those publications, he did some work for a few Lone Scout papers, including The All-Around Magazine, The Toreador, and his own venture, The Right Hook. After leaving college, he joined a group of similarly-minded Texans to produce The Junto. As his writing career picked up, The Junto dissolved, but that wasn’t the end of Howard in the amateur press.
Around October of 1933, fellow Weird Tales writer Clark Ashton Smith sent Howard a copy of The Fantasy Fan #2. In a letter that month, Howard thanked Smith:
Thanks for the copy of Fantasy Fan. I subscribed for a year; a dollar is little enough to pay for the privilege of reading stories by Lovecraft, Derleth and yourself. I enjoyed very much your “Kingdom of the Worm”. It is an awesome and magnificent and somber word picture you have drawn of the haunted land of Antchar.
True to his word, in a letter dated November 1, 1933, Howard wrote to the editor of The Fantasy Fan, Charles Hornig, and included a check for a year’s subscription. After praising the contents, he adds, “I shall be glad to submit some things, if you wish.”
Apparently, he wished. On November 10, Howard sent Hornig a copy of “The Frost King’s Daughter.” Originally a Conan tale, it had been rejected by Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright. Howard did a minor rewrite, changing the main character from Conan to Amra, and sent it to Hornig. It was published as “Gods of the North” in the March 1934 issue. Besides “Gods,” Howard also contributed two poems to the magazine.
From October 1933 to April 1935, Howard’s letters are full of mentions of The Fantasy Fan. Besides a handful of letters to editor Hornig (some of which were published in the magazine), Howard also discussed TFF with Lovecraft, Smith, Derleth, Emil Petaja and Robert H. Barlow—contributors all.
Unfortunately, the magazine folded after the February 1935 issue. Howard wrote to Hornig in early May: “I’m very sorry to learn that The Fantasy Fan has to be discontinued. I enjoyed the magazine very much, and had hoped that it would be able to carry on.”
Besides the poetry and short stories, The Fantasy Fan had a bustling letters column. “Our Readers Say” is full of letters from all of the writers mentioned above, including Howard, as well as other big names in the field, like Forest Ackerman and Duane W. Rimel. The magazine also reported on events and authors of the era in columns like “Within the Circle,” by F. Lee Baldwin. Baldwin reported on a wide variety of events and authors, including this note from the June 1934 issue:
E. Hoffmann Price is touring the Southwest and is planning to call on Robert E. Howard, dip into Mexico, stop at Clark Ashton Smith’s and finally wind up in San Francisco. His beloved rugs are with him.
And that’s just one of the many references to Howard contained in the magazine’s 18-issue run.
Back in 2006, I issued a little collection called Robert E. Howard in The Fantasy Fan. I thought I had collected all of the Howard-related material found in those pages. Boy, was I wrong. Besides missing the Price/Howard reference above, I didn’t have access to a complete run and so missed many more. What’s a Howard fan to do?
Now, thanks to Lance Thingmaker, fans of Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and others, can take a trip back in time and read the complete run of The Fantasy Fan. Thingmaker has produced a beautiful, slip-cased, hardcover collection of all 18 issues—in facsimile, no less. And he’s added the complete text of Lovecraft’s “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” which ran in installments during the magazine’s lifetime, but was not completed before it ceased publication.
I received my copy a few days ago, and the attention to detail in this collection is much appreciated. Not only is each issue presented in its entirety, Thingmaker even matched the appearance of the originals. For example, the September 1934 issue had a white cover (it was the anniversary issue): For this collection, the pages are suitably tan, but the anniversary number has a white cover. The same with the pinkish May 1934 cover. Nice.
For people interested in Howard, Lovecraft, and/or Smith—or even Fantasy fiction in general—as well as those who just like weird fiction, this volume is a must have. Search for “fantasy fan hardcover” on eBay and “Buy it now” for $55. Or contact the publisher.