World Fantasy Convention trip reports


While you are waiting for the November issue of The Cimmerian, you can get some preliminary trip reports on the web from a variety of authors:

James Reasoner at Rough Edges. (James is a prolific fiction author and former member of REHupa)

Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine: Here, Here, and Here. (Bill is a longtime Howard fan who contributed to the Con’s Cross Plains Universe book.)

Angeline Hawkes at Something to Talk About (along with her husband Christopher Fulbright, Angeline is a fiction writer and Howard Days attendee).

Jayme Lynn Blaschke’s Gibberish blog (some good photos of Jayme’s specially brewed and bottled REH beer, which was served at [redacted]’s Blood and Thunder release party).

MidAmerican Fan Photo Archive. (lots of con photos)

Many people have asked if Cross Plains Universe will be available for purchase even if you didn’t get to the Con. I believe that is still in the planning stages, but the likelihood is high that it will be released in a wider format. If not, it shouldn’t be too hard to score a copy off of eBay eventually.

Howard magazines hitting the streets


In addition to The Cimmerian, two other Howard magazines have released new issues this month. Damon Sasser had the new number of his REH: Two-Gun Raconteur at the World Fantasy Convention, where the copies quickly disappeared. You can check out the contents at the mag’s website.


Meanwhile, The Dark Man website reports that their latest issue is “off to the printers,” so with luck this means that it will appear before the end of the year. Go to their site to see a list of contents.

When this year is over and the total number of publications is tabulated, the resulting list should be impressive. And the Cimmerian Awards next year should be a blast with so many nominees in different categories.

Blood and Thunder is Available


Mark’s long-awaited biography of Robert E. Howard debuted to much fanfare at the World Fantasy Convention, and now it is available for purchase at and other fine bookstores. If you are also planning on buying the new Del Rey Kull volume (and come on, who isn’t?) you can buy both together at Amazon and save some dough.

As it turns out, Blood and Thunder isn’t 400 pages as advertised at Amazon and elsewhere, but only 254. Still, it is chock full of things Howard fans have never seen before. Never-before-seen photos of Hester Howard and Cross Plains, excerpts from the Cross Plains newspaper during Howard’s time, lots of information about the oil booms, Texas history, and the art of the tall tale. The book thankfully has an index, too.

Judging from the comments of various people who have read it, reactions have been largely positive. Even de Camp friend Darrell Schweitzer admitted to me on the last day of the Con that, despite some small errors of fact regarding pulps and such, he found the book an enjoyable and informative read and thought that it brought credit to Howard and the field of Howard studies. The introduction by Joe Lansdale, unlike the wretched Michael Moorcock foreword for the embarrassing Hippocampus REH critical anthology, is appropriately learned and reverent.

At a cost of only $10.85 at Amazon, the first biography on Howard in twenty years deserves to be on every Howard fan’s bookshelf. And with Christmas coming up, it’s a great and inexpensive gift for any Howard fans you may know who might otherwise not know about it. Hopefully this will be the start of a series of biographical treatments of Howard — Lord knows his life was rich and complex enough to support many different interpretations and degrees of focus.

The REH Foundation


One of the big announcements at the World Fantasy Convention was the formation of a new organization called The REH Foundation, which seems to be Paradox Entertainment’s attempt to foster a connection with fans and do its part to perpetuate the original Howard work that fuels their licenses and various multimedia projects.

Among the Foundation’s stated goals is establishing an ambitious publishing schedule designed to get all of Howard’s work in print, especially the never-published material such as the Complete Letters and poems (the first volumes will be appearing early next year). In addition, there will be a concerted effort to make typescripts and other research materials available to scholars. Apparently the Foundation is also going to help support Howard Days in Cross Plains, and perhaps establish grants or awards to foster the study of Howard by scholars and the emulation and perpetuation of Howard’s style and legacy among modern writers.

If all this works, it should be a great boon to the field. Much will depend on cooperation and organization, things that aren’t always evident among Howard fans. And as we all know, previous Howard initiatives have had a history of going belly-up at inopportune times. Over the years changes in ownership and in the book market have grounded one set of good intentions after another. In any case, Howard fandom and scholarship and publishing seems to be growing by leaps and bounds every year. All of this activity can only be good for REH.

The Home Stretch

Back from Austin, where after the World Fantasy Convention I stayed an extra few days and did some exploring through the L. Sprague de Camp papers at the Harry Ransom Center. I only got through a single box of correspondence, but what I saw convinced me that I’ll have to set aside a few weeks sometime to go through far more of it. Lots of interesting things to be gleaned in those files, much of it never revealed before in any venue of which I am aware. Some of the best Howard information can sometimes be found in letters that on the surface have no Howard content at all.

I caught a cold in Austin due to lack of sleep, and between that and fighting to get the October issue shipped the last few days have been busy. And after that there is no rest for the wicked: as soon as October ships it’s time to prepare the November issue with all of the World Fantasy Convention coverage. Lots of interesting things happened down there, enough to fill as many pages as the Howard Days trip report usually does.

Unfortunately TC failed in its quest to take home a trophy at the awards, but the experience of being nominated and performing readings and panels at the convention was a lot of fun. I was surprised at how many otherwise knowledgeable fantasy fans knew next to nothing about Howard, but heartened at how many wanted to learn more. There definitely is a prejudice against Howard among certain factions of the Old Guard of fantasy/sci-fi, a cliquish group who fancies themselves as intellectual and progressive, people far above slumming with pulp authors. But I got the feeling that, in addition to being out of touch, those people are fading from the scene just a bit more with each passing year, and that the younger generation is far more amendable to listing Howard among the giants of fantasy. I left feeling very optimistic about Howard’s long-term prospects among the movers and shakers of the fantasy publishing world.

Only two more issues (plus the Awards and Index) to go, and the centennial volume of The Cimmerian will be complete. The year has been everything I thought it would be, both in terms of work and of fun.

Basil Poledouris, R.I.P.


One of the greatest film composers of all time has been felled by cancer. Basil Poledouris (1945-2006) leaves us with some of the most stirring and evocative music ever written for the screen, including Conan the Barbarian, Lonesome Dove, The Hunt for Red October, Robocop, The Blue Lagoon, Free Willy, Farewell to the King, Quigley Down Under, Cherry 2000, and Flesh and Blood. He specialized in crafting A-list music for B and C-list movies, and he did most of the scores for one of the favorites of this blog, John Milius. Friends of mine in the industry and out have always reported how generous he was with time, advice, and encouragement, and his interviews in print and on DVDs were always learned and perceptive. In a town that too often lives up to the appellation “Hollyweird,” Poledouris was one of the good guys. The age of sixty-one was way too early to leave us, and he will be missed by all who value film music at its best.

Conan the Barbarian is a film that elicits varied reactions from fans of Robert E. Howard, but I think it is indisputable that the film’s soundtrack is one of the best ever written, with an influence among film composers rivaling the influence of Frazetta on art. Its main theme is instantly recognizable and has been co-opted for all manner of people and events. What is less appreciated is how lush and romantic and nuanced the score is, with many quiet themes that sweep you away as if on a cold wind through a lost age. Poledouris recorded the score in Italy and modified the orchestra with a variety of barbaric-sounding instruments and percussion, which lends the music a tinge of antiquity and exoticness that never fails to thrill me. Many of Poledouris’ lesser-known scores build on the achievement of Conan the Barbarian and offer potent treasures for lovers of such music. Farewell to the King and Flesh and Blood especially owe a lot to the earlier score.

Poledouris’ commentary on the Conan the Barbarian DVD is one of the high points of the disc, and he avoids all of the unseriousness and misinformation that mars too much of the contributions of Milius and Schwarzenegger. He has also been featured in fascinating interviews in publications like Film Score Monthly. I always thought Poledouris deserved far better than the career he had, as brilliant as that career was. Many of his very best scores were for movies that barely rose above the level of dreck, and I wonder what he would have done with some of the non-action blockbusters of the eighties and nineties, the kind of films that too often went to lesser composers secure in their blandness. The few times he was able to cut loose in a film of real quality, such as Lonesome Dove, he was astounding (for that one he won a well-deserved Emmy).

It is sad that there will be no more music coming from such a talent, but thankfully every year more of his older work is released for us to savor. Basil Poledouris was a giant in the field, and his legacy will not soon be forgotten.