Billie Ruth’s Brainchild Makes Good


Check out this article about the Cross Plains Public Library in the Abilene Reporter News today (hat tip: Don Herron). Apparently our favorite library (and Cimmerian archive location) has made the final cut into a new book on the best small libraries in the country.

Small wonder — REH Days attendees have marveled for years at the Library’s sizable collection of Howard materials, including original typescripts, pulps, fanzines, and assorted rare hardcovers and paperbacks. At times the Library that Howard hero Billie Ruth Loving (1920-2004) willed into existence has played host to a gallery of Gary Gianni paintings of Solomon Kane and Bran Mak Morn, to talks about Howard and the publishing industry by the head honchos at Paradox Entertainment, and to numerous “Meet the Author” events from writers around the state.

In fact, their latest shindig features none other than The Cimmerian Blog’s own [redacted], author of the new REH biography Blood & Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard. Mark will be in Cross Plains on February 13 to talk at the Community Center about Howard. Wish I could be there — I’m hoping that local Howard fans will show up to take photographs and record the event so the transcript can be printed here or in TC proper.

Uncollected Letter in a Locke-box?


[redacted]’s recent post offering a breakdown of the recipients of all those Collected Letters sent me back to Dennis McHaney’s Howard in the Eyrie — The Conan Years: Part Four, Conclusion, a chapbook from December 2002 (The contents of which were amalgamated into Robert E. Howard: World’s Greatest Pulpster, which I’ve been lamentably late in getting around to ordering) On page 14 of the chapbook (page 99 of Pulpster), which deals with the Eyrie section of the February 1937 Weird Tales, Dennis quotes a letter from one Robert Locke, of Kansas City:

It is seldom that one writer will become enthralled by a fellow scribe’s creation. Yet Conan, the character created by Robert E. Howard, so captured my imagination that shortly before his untimely death, I wrote a letter to him expressing my admiration. The letter which Mr. Howard wrote me is one of my most prized possessions. In it he stated his appreciation for my interest and promised that he would write many more stories, carrying Conan through the mythical countries of Khitai, Khosala, Brythunia, Corinthia, etc. . .

This intrigues me for several reasons. That first generation of Howard fans was the only one that enjoyed what none of us ever have, a window of opportunity for give-and-take with Robert E. Howard while he was alive and writing. I can but echo Rob’s earlier thoughts on this issue–if even a dozen or two dozen handcrafted REH responses to fanmail moldered away in attics and cellars or were mulched in the Forties, Fifties, and subsequent decades, that’s an intolerable loss. Locke describes the one he received as a prized possession; could his heirs, and their heirs, be located by researching Kansas City public records? At this late date, any such effort would be staring down a barrel of diminishing returns, but still…

(Continue reading this post)

Slipcases Slippin’ Away


Well, it was bound to happen. After about nine months on the market, the fifty slipcases each made for Volume 1 and Volume 2 are just about gone forever. I only have a single slipcase left for each year. $40 per, grab ’em while you can. There’s been a bit of a run on them over the past few weeks, I’m not sure why. Perhaps a few people finally realized that it was now or never, and that they might as well splurge a bit for a nice home for their Cimmerians.

As for the Volume 3 slipcases, they might go real fast after they appear. Subscribers who specified they wanted slipcases each year don’t have to worry — they’ll get their slipcase. Non-subscribers who want one should pre-order to reserve their case. Pre-order information will be posted sometime over the next few weeks. I anticipate the V3 slipcases being slightly more expensive that the older ones owing to their bigger size, but we’ll see.

Those who missed out on both the Deluxe issues and the Slipcases — and want to catch up — there’s still one option for you. Go to the Slipcases page and scroll down to the bottom, and you will see some Deluxe “Complete Sets” advertised. These are complete sets of Deluxe issues for those years, including the out-of-print ones, along with a slipcase for that year. The price tag on these is rising as more issues go out of print and as the slipcases sell out. So if you are toying with the thought of such a purchase, best do it sooner than later.

After three years, certain parts of the backlog are becoming scarce. What will the next generation think of all this when they come barreling on the scene someday? There hasn’t been any selling of Deluxe issues on eBay to speak of, so no one seems to be getting rid of the ones they have, even those folks who stopped reading TC long ago for whatever reason and have issues to dump. Once some of the Limiteds go out of print, making it impossible to read those issues in any format, it should drive the new fans nuts. I know if I were just entering REH fandom and wanted to read all of that material, it would be a real tough pill to swallow.

Voting Tips

Here’s a few things that have come up so far this year:

1. Please breakdown how you figured out how many votes you have. Something like “12 issues + 1 Awards ish + 1 Index + 4 for two Lion’s Den letters + 3 for one essay + 2 for Cross Plains coverage = 23 votes total.”

2. Use the template provided in this post to make sure you voted for everything. Several people have missed categories by accident already.

3. For essays, you vote THREE times. Once for First Place, once for Second Place, and once for Third Place.

4. By request, I’ve added a “No Award This Year” option to the top of the ballot page. This is for when you decide that none of the candidates are qualified, and you’d prefer that no one receive the Award in question. I find it hard to believe that any category will even be so barren of talent as to require this, but what the heck.

Try the Oak

By now most of you know that the Motel 36 in Cross Plains is full. If you didn’t snag one of the rooms there and you still need to find a good place to stay for REH Days, give The Oak Motel in Cisco a try. Cisco is north of Cross Plains, and The Oak is right off of Interstate 20, the highway that leads west from Dallas, so it’s convenient.

I’ve stayed at The Oak several times and have always enjoyed it. It’s probably a bit better kept than the Motel 36, and I really like the fact that it’s out in the open air with a decent breeze always wafting through the courtyard, meaning you can sit out there all night and never worry about mosquitoes, which can sometimes be a problem outside the Motel 36 and the Howard House. It takes about twenty minutes to drive from Cisco to Cross Plains, which isn’t bad at all — Brownwood to Cross Plains takes a bit longer. And the Cisco motel prices are significantly cheaper than Brownwood.

There’s also a Best Western in Cisco that’s pretty good, so use that as a fallback option. Here are the numbers:

The Oak Motel (Cisco): (254)442-2100

Best Western (Cisco): (254)442-3735

If you can’t get a room in Cisco, then Brownwood’s probably your next best bet. The bad news is that Brownwood is more expensive by $20-$60 a night, depending on where you stay. The good news is that Brownwood is a pretty big town, so you have much better hotels, complete with swimming pools and other amenities. You also have a wide selection of restaurants and stores, compared to the small selection in Cross Plains and Cisco. Finally, Brownwood has Greenleaf Cemetery (where REH is buried) and nearby is Clear Creek Cemetery (where Novalyne is buried). Brownwood also is in Brown County, not Callahan County (which is dry), so you have beer and liquor stores.

The sooner you book a room, the better, as they tend to fill up quick after the first of the year. As for the dates, the rule to remember is that Howard Days always falls on the second weekend in June. This year, that will be June 8-9, 2007. We’re also making plans to assemble a caravan on Thursday June 7 and drive down to Fort McKavett and Enchanted Rock State Park, both fun Howard-related places which a lot of attendees have never seen before. So if that sounds interesting, you’ll want to book your hotel for Wednesday and Thursday nights, too. (The caravan will leave Cross Plains early Thursday morning, around 8 a.m. or so).

Dave Hardy blogging away


Cimmerian contributor Dave Hardy has been updating his blog regularly with book and film reviews, several of which focus on Robert E. Howard. Go here to check out the REH entries, and browse around the sidebar links for lots more content, and some interesting links to other websites.

Dave’s essay “Indomitable Wildness, Unquenchable Vitality” is up for a Cimmerian Award this year, and he’s got a short piece on REH and The Arabian Nights coming up in TC soon.

The Vultures


There are many wonderful benefits to editing The Cimmerian. Meeting new fans, discovering new things about Howard, establishing a community of individuals who share a vision about how an REH journal should look and read and feel. These are all good, and they’ve brought me no small amount of joy over the last three years.

One thing I dislike about the experience, though, is brushing up against guys I call Opportunistic Collectors. These (inevitably well-heeled) fans e-mail me once a year, usually in a few terse sentences devoid of grammar, with the goal of feeling me out about adding TC to their collections on the cheap. They usually start out by damning with faint praise — “gee young whippersnapper, looks like u been busy!” — before trying to loosen me up with a few choice insults — “even tho your print run is too small to be taken seriously, and u overcharge for what in the end are just crappy Xeroxed fanzines” — before finally making a pitch to scam a set on the cheap — “but hey, even though they wouldn’t normally be worth my time or money, if u give me a big bulk discount, I’ll do you a favor and take a pile off your hands. Let’s deal, hey?”

Perhaps this is just how self-absorbed collectors operate, I don’t know. I’m not a collector, never have been. My entire Howard “collection” consists of a cache of books taking up about three feet of bookshelf. No mylar bags, no ultraviolet glass, no dust-proof cabinets, no temperature-controlled vaults in the basement. When I created The Cimmerian, I got some input from collectors I respect, and strove to make the journal collector-friendly in various ways: numbered issues, different states, finite print runs, good materials, extra features like the Index issue and Slipcases. But all that is for them, it doesn’t thrill me at all. My interest is in good content, making a journal to be read, not just tagged and bagged and stored.

I marvel at the stories of hardcore collectors snatching up everything Howard because they feel the need to keep their inventory complete, even though they read very little of what they buy. I know people whose collections take up every available square inch of their houses, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on every wall and in every closet — and who still need to stick hundreds of additional boxes into storage facilities. That’s tens of thousands of items that they will likely never see again before they die, much less read. Blows my mind. I guess in my most crazed, greedy, obsessive-compulsive moments I can understand the mentality on some remote level, but for the most part it’s utterly foreign to me, like trying to imagine how a chair would look if your knees bent the other way. I tend to give stuff away with abandon, just to get it out of the room so I can breathe better.

Which brings me back to the Vultures. Whenever they rear their ugly little heads in my In-box, I always marvel a bit at what I’m hearing. The way I see it, if you don’t like REH enough to pay what really is a pretty reasonable price these days, then why bother trying to buy TC at all? Aren’t these the same guys who regularly fork out $100 for pissant little chapbooks or barely-legible mimeoed fanzines? And now these same guys think $15 is too much for foil-stamped covers, parchment paper, and scrupulously edited content? What do they think, that the price on this stuff is actually going to go down as the years drift by? How dumb is that?

My standard answer to such requests is “Sorry, but I don’t give discounts — it would be unfair to those loyal readers who have paid full price and supported the journal for the last three years.” This never fails to rouse righteous indignation, and they fire back with a version of “U just made a bad business decision, bucko. I was all ready to give u a charity buy, but forget it now.” It’s hard to express just how ridiculous I find this attitude to be. What the hell — I’m supposed to cave in to some rude stranger insulting me, giving him a much better price than my most loyal readers just to make a few extra pazoors? Screw that noise. The Cimmerian ALREADY makes all the money it needs to, as-is. I’m not a millionaire, true — but unlike most fan publications I’m able to pay all of my bills, pay all of my contributors, and have some left over to finance next year’s art or next year’s slipcases. The point is, I’m in no rush to get rid of the issues I haven’t sold. I’d like more readers, sure — who wouldn’t? But in a financial sense, I don’t need them. If the Vultures think, for example, that those fifty copies of V1n1 still sitting in my archives are burning holes in my pockets, they’re mistaken.

I fully expect to sell out all my issues sooner or later, but just to make it clear for the Vultures who simply cannot fathom such a thing, let me tell you what’s going to happen to any issues I don’t sell. They’re not going to be remaindered to a bookstore or online seller, and they’re not going to be marked down on my website until the Vultures pick them off. Eventually, if I get sick of having them around and offering them as back issues, I’m just going to burn them. Every last one of ’em. Then I’ll simply figure out how many issues are left out there in the Real World, and I’ll post those numbers for the edification of all involved. Loyal Readers will be the only ones left with copies. After that, whenever a Johnnie-come-lately wants to trick out his Howard collection with a pile of “Xeroxed zines” (they aren’t Xeroxed, of course, but we’ll humor them), they’ll have to come to YOU. And as fellow collectors (and far savvier ones, judging by your decision to subscribe to TC from the beginning) they won’t be getting them on the cheap.

The bottom line is this: you readers who have stuck with me from the beginning, subscribing every month at a premium, will always be the ones who got the best deal. That’s my promise. As for the Vultures, circling around the battlefield waiting for some Cimmerian carrion, they’re going to end up looking like turkeys. Gobble-gobble.

The GoH Who Got Away, a.k.a. Another Redbeard for the Black Circle

Greg Manchess, who came across so personably as both a panelist and an informal conversationalist during the recent World Fantasy Convention in Austin, will do his part and then some to ensure the success of the 2007 Howard Days as Guest of Honor. And yet his selection, through no fault of his, makes me want to recite Ossianic verses or intravenously inject peat whiskey or do something else expressive of Gaelic melancholia. Can’t help recalling the testimonials in Exorcisms and Ecstasies and reflecting what a Guest of Honor to End All Guests of Honor Karl Edward Wagner would have made, especially in advance of his Long Goodbye phase. Gary Romeo might have felt duty-bound to boycott the festivities and establish a rival or schismatic Howard Days, the equivalent of an Avignon papacy, outside a certain former residence in Plano, but most celebrants would have come away with anecdotes to be prized like amulets.

KEW is in no position to serve as Guest of Honor, unless we figure out how to work the Orastes/Valerius/Tarascus/Amalric trick. But with all due respect for the carnosaur-sized footprints the two current frontrunners have left all over Howard studies, he does belong on the Black Circle ballot as much as anyone save Novalyne Price Ellis herself (Leo asked for suggestions, and I can’t believe I spaced; guess I’m an imperfect Wagnerite). I went on and on in the Lion’s Den this past year about Wagner’s credentials as an REH editor and exponent, and will refrain from flogging that dead destrier here. Perhaps the thing to do is to add his name next year; for de Camp to beat KEW into the Black Circle would be a justice-miscarriage of Shub-Niggurathian proportions.

Sorry, Karl. Won’t happen again.

LEO ADDS: I put him on the list. No big deal, anyone who has voted and wants to change their vote before March 1 is welcome to. There’s probably a lot of others we could add to that list, but I figure we might as well wait until someone raises a stink about them.

Triple Play


At long last, we have some new Cimmerians. The November (V3n11), December (V3n12), and Awards issues have all been shipped to subscribers, and are now available for general purchase. With the minor exceptions of the Deluxe Index issue and the slipcases, Volume 3 is now complete. But there’s no rest for the wicked — Volume 4 is ramping up for a February debut, sporting a new color, new artist, and lots of new REH content. Until then, you have a whole lot of reading to enjoy. These three issues are all jam-packed with tens of thousands of words of text. A massive WFC trip report, numerous REH articles, Howardian poetry, lots of Lion’s Den red meat — it’s all on its way to your door. For those who can’t wait, take a peek at the Issues For Sale page and read the posted excerpts.

Thanks for making Volume 3 such a memorable success.

Cross Plains Motel — Red Friggin’ Alert

OK, listen up: I just found out that the Motel 36 in Cross Plains is under new management. The guy behind the desk seems nice enough, and it looks here as if he has been doing some remodeling and making the rooms there better than ever. But here’s the rub: HE DOESN’T HAVE THE RESERVATION BOOK WE ALL SIGNED UP IN LAST JUNE. That means that all of you out there who have been secure in the knowledge that you have a June reservation for Howard Days, YOU DON’T.

I rebooked my own reservation, and apparently about five of the other rooms are already re-booked, leaving ten or so left. If you are one of those people who likes staying in town during Howard Days, I highly recommend you call the Motel immediately and re-book, before it’s too late.

The number for the Motel 36 is: (254)725-4550. If you are planning to attend the Thursday field trip to Fort McKavett and Enchanted Rock State Park with us, you should book for Wednesday through Sunday, four nights in all.

The guy at the motel sounds real sorry about the mix-up, but he simply doesn’t have that book anymore — the one the old managers gave him ran only to May. So hurry, give him a call, and re-book your reservation today. You’ve been warned.

(Thanks to Cimmerian reader Tom Verhaaren for alerting me to this state of events. All of you who get your rooms back in time owe him a beer this June).

PS — for those of you who own RVs, the Motel now has an “RV Park” for you to use, complete with hookups, etc.