Fat Bastards Beyond the Border


Roughhousing with Slasher in “Beyond the Black River” the other day, I came across this on page 51 of The Conquering Sword of Conan (the Cimmerian is balking at the prospect of the forest demon absconding with Tiberias’ head): “I never liked the fat bastard, but we can’t have Pictish devils making so cursed free with white men’s heads.”

Once the gigantic mirth subsided I started checking the story’s previous appearances. Conan the Warrior has “I never liked the fat fool.” Hans Stefan Santesson’s 1970 anthology The Mighty Swordsmen has “I never liked the fat fool.” Red Nails, the 1977 Berkley volume edited by Karl Edward Wagner, has “I never liked the fat fool.” So does Robert Adams’ 1985 anthology Barbarians. So obviously “fat fool” is from the Weird Tales text, whereas “fat bastard” must have been reinstated by Patrice Louinet from Howard’s final draft. It would be interesting to know what Farnsworth Wright’s SOP was for minor or single-word emendations like this. He couldn’t fax or e-mail Howard, and even telephoning might have busted the WT budget, so presumably he went full speed ahead and changed the wording himself.

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REH gets a Wikipedia facelift

If you recall, back in July I introduced Cimmerian readers to Wikipedia, the enormously popular free encyclopedia online, and encouraged fans to improve Howard’s rather weak entry. Well, exactly zero people took me up on the offer, so eventually I decided to improve it myself. The results are now up at Wikipedia for all to see.

I have included citations for the introductory paragraphs, and will try to add more as time permits. Howard’s biography has grown from a single small blurb that basically stated “He wrote a few stories and then killed himself” to a lengthy biography that attempts to touch on all of the major elements of his career. A Legacy section has been added, along with a Critical Appreciation section.

Most important to me, however, are the opening paragraphs which hit the reader as soon as they click on the page. The full scope of his achievement is presented in a few short paragraphs: “famous writer…creator of a literary icon…inventor of Sword-and-Sorcery…ranked with other great classic American authors.” This is the kind of thing that incoming interested parties should be reading, with citations for everything.

Of course, Wikipedia is a collaborative medium, and everyone who wants to can edit or change anything they want. My original entry has already undergone numerous emendations. A Lovecraft fan named Nareek changed “Conan the Cimmerian” to the less accurate “Conan the Barbarian”, giving the rationale that the character has been known by that appellation since 1954 (and even though Howard has been dead since 1936, and even though Wandering Star’s textual restorations make sure to use “Cimmerian”). A de Camp crone has also dove in and changed all of my fairly neutral yet accurate descriptions to pro-de Camp propaganda, using de Camp’s own technique of subtly altering the wordage to benefit Sprague, the same way Wagner’s Berkley introductions were cleansed. Nareek, who although primarily a Lovecraft fan seems to have taken it upon himself to monitor Howard’s page, deleted some of the de Camp-skewed changes, so the fight is on.

Someone else (I’m guessing [redacted]) added information about the World Fantasy Convention and Mark’s forthcoming biography. It won’t be long now before all of my carefully worded prose will be edited and mangled beyond recognition, some of it an improvement, much of it inaccurate. But that’s the Wikipedia way, and it’s fine by me. If I want my words to remain untouched, I’ll write a book or a personal website. But the important thing is now the REH Wikipedia page has a substantial amount of information on it for people to play with and savor. There’s also a crystal-clear version of the famous REH picture gracing the page, which you can click on for higher-resolution versions.

With luck, people visiting this page to learn about Howard will now leave there being much more informed. So go over, read through the whole works, and if you see something that you think you could improve, click on “edit” and have at it. Maybe read the Wikipedia guidelines first so you aren’t doing more harm than good (i.e. things like including details that are outside of the scope of an encyclopedia, or putting too much of a personal slant on your writing, or listing things that cannot be verified or cited by existing texts.) And if you’re feeling adventurous, create some of the other pages Howard needs there, like a page for your favorite story, or for Howard’s parents, or for his lesser-known friends, or for different editions of books.

I’ve also been seeding Howard into other areas of Wikipedia where I think he deserves to be mentioned. For example, he is now on the list of American autodidacts. He is also listed on the Jack London page as a guy who was influenced by London. The possibilities are almost limitless. I noticed that REH is not listed on the H. P. Lovecraft page in the “influences” section — I don’t want to know what kind of outrage such a move would unleash in Lovecraft-land. In any case, the REH page is now a going concern, nudging him that much higher in the grand scheme of things. Enjoy.

MARK ADDS: Outstanding work, Leo. No, it wasn’t me that added the WFC info, but you will notice my fingerprints on the Sailor Steve Costigan entry.

New Howard Bibliography Ready to Roll

Paul Herman (editor of many Howard books for Wildside Press) has announced that his massive new bibliography on Robert E. Howard will be available shortly. It’s called The Neverending Hunt, and it’s jam-packed with lots of never-before-published information. Paul is the two-time Cimmerian Award winner for Best REH Website, by virtue of HowardWorks — but this book will have much in it that even that colossal site lacks.

For instance, have you ever heard of “Over the Rockies in a Ford?” Of course you haven’t. That’s because it’s a complete, unpublished Howard story that has never seen print anywhere before. If you are a collector of first editions of Howard’s work, you’ll need to order this book.

Have you ever wanted to know exactly how many poems of Howard’s have been found over the years? How about his letters? — just exactly how much exists out there, unpublished and unknown, for you to pine for? Well, wonder no longer — Paul has included not only a Prose Index, but also a Verse Index and a Letters Index, and I guarantee you’ll be astounded at how much Howard stuff remains unpublished and uncollected. We are talking hundreds and hundreds of items for you to add to your collecting lists.

And then there are all the publications that have appeared since Glenn Lord’s standard bio-bibliography appeared as The Last Celt in 1976 (and TLC‘s biblio was only updated up to 1973). Books in English, periodicals, anthologies, chapbooks and products in other unusual formats, plus samplings of books in non-English languages and comics. And just for fun, there are several “best of” lists included to give you an idea of what stories, etc. have garnered the best reputation over the years — perhaps there will be some there you haven’t read and will want to seek out. All of it has been assembled by Paul and pored over by the best Howard scholars and collectors in the business. The result is a 630 page labor of love that no Howard fan can afford to be without.

Collectors take note and beware: whereas a Wildside edition will be coming out early next year, it still isn’t decided yet in what format it will appear, hardcover or trade paper. But regardless of that, Paul is releasing a first edition of the book in a few weeks under his Hermanthis imprint. This edition will be limited to 100 signed and numbered copies (many of which are already spoken for), and it will be a superior grade hardcover. High quality binding, good paper — Paul took the time to look for a printer he really liked. So again, if first edition appearances of Howard stories is your game, you need to act on this now and pre-order.

So how do you do that? Pop Paul an e-mail and give him your info. He’s charging $50 per copy, and as I said, this is a high-grade hardcover, 630+ pages, everything in a small 10pt. font and no illustrations or other padding. Just an enormous volume of the factual information Howard collectors and scholars need to keep on top of the tsunami of REH publishing that has gone on for the last three decades, and that continues through this centennial year. The book is updated through July 2006, so you’re getting the absolute latest information.

Paul says he’s all finished with the proofs, and that the first printing of the book should be available in early October. Attendees of the World Fantasy Convention can expect to see copies there only if he doesn’t sell out in the interim, so if you want one of these superior hardcovers, best pre-order now before it’s too late.

This book is a significant event for the centennial. It’s the result, literally, of twenty-five years of research on Paul’s part, and he’s consulted with people as varied as Patrice Louinet, David Gentzel, Dennis McHaney, and others too numerous to mention. And of course Glenn Lord, the Dean of Howard fandom. All of these guys are noted collectors and scholars in their own right, and with The Neverending Hunt you get the sum total of their bibliographic knowledge at your fingertips. That’s huge, and it’s another way in which this centennial year has exceeded all expectations.

ROB ADDS: This is one of the things that I’ve been waiting for: a complete listing of letters and poems. Plus all the things that have come out since 1973. And I finally get to make a mark on the “Unpublished” list. “Over the Rockies in a Ford” is one of the Bill Smalley stories that Howard wrote early on. The very first story he ever submitted, to Adventure, was “Bill Smalley and the Power of the Human Eye,” which was rejected and is only available in an old issue of The Dark Man.

While We Can Garryowen Hail

It’s a strange, strained, overly scripted day in lower Manhattan — how could it not be? Complaining that this culture we’re stuck with is given to hype and hucksterism is about as useful as complaining that the ocean is wet, so instead I’ll mention that the sky is a high-alert hornet’s nest of gunships and newschoppers, but otherwise the precise shade of azure that we’ve come to think of as “September 11 blue.” In the past 5 years the financial district has morphed into a dual-usage, newly residential neighborhood, swarming with young couples towing or being towed by their toddlers and pets — and that’s certainly one in the ‘nads for Thanatos and his cave-dwelling, video-releasing lieutenants.

My co-workers and I have long since finished swapping memories of that morning, so this blog will come in handy. Can’t forget the suddenly de-officed paperwork, more than any previous human civilization could have produced, snowstorming down on us after being converted to confetti by some apocalyptic document shredder. And as long-suffering REHupans can attest, I tend to think in literary allusions and resonances, so that when I try to recall the wordless but oh-so-vocal reaction of the thousands of evacuees and rubber-neckers on Greenwich Street as the second tower despaired of further verticality, it’s the famous first sentence of Thomas Pynchon’s masterpiece Gravity’s Rainbow that flashes through my mind: “A screaming comes across the sky.” I associate the tongue-coating taste of the destruction that drove us northward, block after block after block, with Gollum’s rejection of the proffered lembas bread in The Two Towers: “Dust and ashes, we can’t eat that.” Robert E. Howard comes into it, too, what with his prescience about cult-like conspiracies based in Afghan hill-forts, dreaming of globalized murder, or my thoughts of a high school friend who died that morning and the fact that he’s still unavenged. Like so many here, I’d do the avenging myself if granted the chance; some situations just cry out for the Old Testament rather than the New (It occurs to me that part of the genius of “The Dark Man” is that de facto representatives of both — Turlogh and the priest — are allowed to make forceful cases, and neither discredits the other).

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2007 REH Day planned for Gen Con

Indiana Bill Cavalier, REHupa’s benevolent dictator and longtime Official Editor, makes it a point to go to the annual Gen Con gaming convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. He’s a hardcore role-player, you see, and Gen Con is the largest gaming convention in the world. This year, however, Indy got a shock when he discovered that Paradox Entertainment has been hard at work planning to host a Robert E. Howard Day next year at the Con, complete with panels, Guests of Honor, and lots of dealers.

Cimmerian readers already have the lowdown from Indy in V3n8 (August, 2006) — if you haven’t snapped up that ish to learn all the details, then as usual you’re missing out on much Howard information. In the meantime, here are high-res copies of both the left and right pages from the Gen Con flyer above announcing the event:

gencon_reh_flyer_1.jpg gencon_reh_flyer_2.jpg

We’ll be posting more information on this blog as it’s learned. Gen Con 2007 is scheduled for August 16-19, so mark your calenders and start saving your lunch money.

Anticipating Kull


Halloween is looking to be extra-special this year. On that Tuesday, Del Rey is slated to release the latest book from the Wandering Star gang, Kull: Exile of Atlantis. Interested readers can visit Dale Rippke’s website Heroes of Dark Fantasy for a listing of the volume’s contents, or cruise on over to Amazon.com to reserve your copy now for only $10.85.

In addition to what should be a serpent-riddled Introduction by this blog’s own Steve Tompkins, the book contains an essay by Patrice Louinet titled “Atlantean Genesis” that is sure to expand on the many textual discoveries already revealed in The Dark Man #6’s “A Short History of the Kull Series.” There are also numerous unpublished fragments, a variant of one of Howard’s best poems — the Kull-themed “The King and the Oak” — and of course a cataclysmic tsunami of illustrations by the talented Justin Sweet. Justin’s work evokes Frazetta more than any of the other Wandering Star artists, and those wishing to see a preview of his work should click over to his website, or visit this page for an in-depth demonstration of how he paints everything on the computer (warning, there are lots of big images that take awhile to download).

Incidentally, for anyone who wants great hi-quality scans of all the Del Rey Howard covers, you can visit their public archive.

What I have been waiting patiently for are the hardcover editions to each of the Del Rey books. It’s been about a year since The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian appeared in hardcover, and since then nada. Back in May of 2005, a Howard fan posted information about a talk he had with Del Rey editor Steve Saffel, wherein Steve states that The Bloody Crown of Conan (a.k.a. Conan II) and The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane each sold only two-thirds the amount that The Coming of Conan did. This might have caused Del Rey to rethink their plans about releasing hardcovers of these titles. I hope not: The Coming of Conan was a great book at a great value, and it would be unfortunate if yet another hardcover set was derailed before it was finished.

Project Pride — the official charity of the 2006 World Fantasy Convention


The following blurb is slated to appear in the forthcoming volume Cross Plains Universe: Texans Celebrate Robert E. Howard, the book that will be given away to attendees at the 2006 World Fantasy Convention:

World Fantasy is proud to celebrate the life and literature of Robert E. Howard during our 2006 Convention. Robert E. Howard is the creator of Conan the Cimmerian, and this anthology is a tribute to the heroic fantasy tradition he helped create. If you would like to help preserve Howard’s legacy and honor Howard’s contributions to fantasy literature, please support Project Pride, the non-profit institution that maintains Robert E. Howard’s family home and heritage in Cross Plains, TX. Project Pride can be found on the Web at: http://www.crossplains.com/howard/museum.htm, or mailed at Project Pride, PO Box 534, Cross Plains, TX 76443.

As always, Project Pride accepts donations of any size, and uses them to provide upkeep to the Howard Museum. New paint, roof, paving, and fire repair have all been required in the past, and every donation helps. If you can, toss a few pazoors their way this centennial year, and help keep Howard’s legacy alive.

What Would She Say About Howard Fans?

Me, I’ve never had any strong opinion about the late Steve Irwin, although I agree with him that “Crocs rule!” (While watching the old Tarzan films on TV as a child, I used to pray for a riled-up river dragon to play catch-and-non-release with Johnny Weissmuller, holding him underwater and thereby sparing us Jungle Jim).

So if I mention that militant-enough-to-give-harridans-a-bad-name academic Germaine Greer crashed the wake all of Australia seems to be staging for Irwin to fault him for “massive insensitivity” and “jumping all over crocodiles” like the worst kind of whip-cracking, chair-prodding lion-tamer, it’s only because it affords me an excuse to trot out my favorite Greer-bite. The success of the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films and the tendency of the Tolkien source material to top readers’ poll after readers’ poll in the U.K. for Book of the (20th) Century caused her no end of distress, and in 2003 she finally let fly at the LOTR readership as consisting of “spaced-out hippies, environmentalists, free-market libertarians, social conservatives, pacifists, new-age theosophists, sexists and racists the world over.” It is to be hoped that such strange bedfellows have been taking advantage of the opportunity, and the bed, to make many more Tolkien (and even some Howard) fans…

LEO ADDS: My favorite Greer moment: vomiting over “a cesspool of garbage” on Celebrity Big Brother, in the processes metaphorically summing up her formidable cultural influence.

Give Me That Old-Time Sword-and-Sorcery!


Guest blogger Morgan Holmes weighs in on a Sword-and-Sorcery post which appeared on this site a few weeks ago:

MORGAN: Steve Tompkins mentioned a couple weeks back about “various knights of doleful countenance” pining for mass market Elak of Atlantis. I like David Gemmell, have been reading him for over ten years, and view him as a standard bearer for the genre at a time when no one else did. These are two different issues though. A problem with Sword-and-Sorcery is the original fiction was never entirely presented in paperback form. Sword-and-Sorcery has been presented fitfully in bits and pieces since the late 1960s.

L. Sprague de Camp was the first to present Sword-and-Sorcery in paperback form with anthologies from Pyramid such as Swords and Sorcery (1963), The Spell of Seven (1965), The Fantastic Swordsmen (1967), and Warlocks and Warriors (1970). The de Camp anthologies were pretty good introductions to the genre for neophytes. Pre-pulp stories by Lord Dunsany were generally included; Robert E. Howard, C. L. Moore, and Clark Ashton Smith from the pulp years. He would include a story or two from 1950s digest magazines by writers he knew (Poul Anderson, Fritz Leiber). De Camp even managed to include fairly new fiction by Michael Moorcock, John Jakes, and Roger Zelazny in those anthologies. Robert E. Howard is present in 100% of the anthologies, Lord Dunsany 100%, Clark Ashton Smith 75%, Fritz Leiber 75%, Henry Kuttner 75%, C. L. Moore 50%, H. P. Lovecraft 50%, and L. Sprague de Camp 50% (one story co-written with Robert E. Howard).

The Lin Carter-edited anthologies are more surveys of fantasy fiction as opposed to being strict anthologies of Sword-and-Sorcery. Anthologies such as The Young Magicians (1969) and New Worlds for Old (1971) have E. R. Eddison, William Morris, and James Branch Cabell juxtaposed with the pulp era of Robert E. Howard, C. L. Moore, and H. P. Lovecraft to post WWII fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Carter’s most Sword-and-Sorcery-oriented anthology is The Magic of Atlantis (1970) which is completely made up of pulp reprints except the Lin Carter story. Carter managed to include obscure Nictzin Dyalhis and Edmond Hamilton stories in the book.

The two anthologies edited by Hans Stefan Santesson, The Mighty Barbarians (1969) and The Mighty Swordsmen (1970) were derivative and inferior with a majority of the stories already found in other anthologies. There were new Lin Carter Thongor stories in each book. Maybe Santesson thought Lin Carter would entice people to buy the book.

That was about it for reprint Sword-and-Sorcery anthologies. Flashing Swords and the Swords Against Darkness series were made up of new fiction later in the 1970s. We had the adulterated Conan “edited” by L. Sprague de Camp, incomplete Clark Ashton Smith from the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, Jirel of Joiry by C. L. Moore (supposedly edited by Lin Carter), the two Prester John novels by Norvell Page, and the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books by Fritz Leiber. That’s it! Everything else marketed as Sword-and-Sorcery in the late ’60s was new or science fiction disguised as Sword-and-Sorcery. As it was, the Jirel collection by Paperback Library missed a story ( “Quest of the Starstone” ) and the Sword-and-Sorcery of Henry Kuttner was never collected. Kuttner wrote four stories about Elak of Atlantis for Weird Tales and two stories about Prince Raynor for Strange Stories. Those six stories collected into one book would have given enough page count for a typical late 1960s paperback. No one bothered to pitch the idea or do the work of collecting six stories together. There was little interest in delving into the pulps to find out what else might be found. Savage Heroes and The Barbarian Swordsmen were pretty much retread anthologies of what had already been done.

It was not until 1987 when the first Echoes of Valor book came out edited by Karl Edward Wagner. This was the first and last attempt to methodically anthologize pulp Sword-and-Sorcery including a fair amount of obscure material. Wagner managed to get the more elusive C. L. Moore stories into print and also present Manly Wade Wellman’s Hok the Cro-Magnon stories for the first time in paperback. The first Echoes of Valor included a Kuttner story ( “Wet Magic” reprinted from Unknown ). The second volume had “Quest of the Starstone” co-written with C. L. Moore, a notoriously hard story to find. The third and last volume of Echoes of Valor included both Prince Raynor stories reprinted from Strange Stories. EoV III is also the closest we have ever come to having a Nictzin Dyalhis collection. Wagner had hoped to edit a fourth and fifth volume of Echoes of Valor but that was not to be. The series did not sell very well for Tor. It didn’t help matters that each book came out in two years intervals. If Wagner had five books ready to go at the outset, we might have a landmark series chronicling the early years of Sword-and-Sorcery fiction. Wagner might have presented lost gems from Planet Stories and Fantastic Adventures to a modern audience. He was beginning to excavate the genre the way Sam Moskowitz had with early science fiction. Science fiction had its massive landmark anthologies edited by J. Francis McComas or Groff Conklin in the 1940s and early 1950s rescuing the best of science fiction of the 1930s and ’40s. We never had that with Sword-and-Sorcery.

You can track down the heroic fantasy of Henry Kuttner but it takes some work. The stories are scattered among various horror and heroic fantasy anthologies. I will here mention that Gryphon Books did collect the Elak stories back in 1985. The book had 500 copies and was marred by being printed with a dot matrix printer. The end result is unreadable. The time has come and gone for mass-market collections for the Sword-and-Sorcery fiction of Henry Kuttner. If it happens today, it will be some small press who produces the book and not Del Rey, Ace, Tor, or Baen though one can always hope.

STEVE ADDS: This would have been a much more enjoyable discussion to have before events prematurely relegated Druss and the other Gemmell heroes to the same past tense where Elak dwells. On his way from the Hans Stefan Santesson anthologies to Flashing Swords! and Swords Against Darkness Morgan skips over a treasure trove that deserves its own Germanic dragon: DAW’s The Years Best Fantasy Stories #1-6, edited by Lin Carter. I’m biased becuse #3, in 1977, introduced me to both KEW’s Kane (before that I knew Wagner only as the author of Legion From the Shadows) and Charles R. Saunders’ Imaro, but with George R.R. Martin’s “The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr,” Gardner Fox’s “Shadow of a Demon,” C.J. Cherryh’s “The Dark King,” and Ray Capella’s “The Goblin Blade” backing up Saunders and Wagner, that might be the pick of the litter. Most of Carter’s selections were either sword-and-sorcery or dark fantasies that were hardly a chore for the S & S aficionado to read; true, there’s Carter himself to deal with — his posthumous collaborations with Clark Ashton Smith are slightly less welcome than would be an actual ghoul chowing down on the CAS bones to get at their marrow — but I for one find Andrew Offutt in the 5 Swords against Darkness collections to be a more erratic editorial presence. Carter manages to rise above himself in #4‘s Niord/Hialmar pastiche “The Pillars of Hell,” and the Thongor stories he chose for the series offered a much less cloddishly Burroughsian barbarian than the Thongor novels of the Sixties. Plus, his excoriation of Terry Brooks at a time when epic fantasy hopheads were ramming their cars through bookstore windows to score copies of The Sword of Shannara makes up for quite a few of the sins of omission and commission in Imaginary Worlds. #4 also features Poul Anderson, Tanith Lee, and Ramsey Campbell wearing their heroic fantasy helms — seriously, any sword-and-sorcery library should include these collections. Carter was still capable of being a force for good in the mid-Seventies when he wasn’t hitting himself in the face with custard pies (think Ganelon Silvermane in the Gondwane novels or Amalric the Man-god in Flashing Swords!)

V3n7 (July 2006) and V3n8 (August 2006) now available

skull_v3n7.jpg  skull_v3n8.jpg
Finally, at long last, I was able to get these out the door. Lots and lots of stuff to savor, including July’s gargantuan Cross Plains trip report by Rick Kelsey — the biggest ever in TC — and August’s symposium of amazing new discoveries regarding the Herbert Jenkins edition of A Gent from Bear Creek. If you simply can’t wait and want to read some excerpts now, head on over to the new Issues for Sale page and click on the July and August issues.

September is already shaping up to be as groundbreaking as August, with more stupefying new Howard discoveries that will rock your world. And the Awards issue is coming together, filled with interviews, voting details, and pictures. It seems every time I think the centennial has delivered all it could, something even more thrilling reveals itself and makes the year that much more special.

Enjoy the issues. It’s back to the salt mines for me….