An Occurrence, But Not at Owl Creek Bridge

Heading into the holiday weekend and with Howard Days dominating the event horizon like a black colossus, I thought that as a capper to some recent Jack London posts I would excerpt one of my favorite literary anecdotes (my all-time favorite involves Joyce’s habit, after goading this or that belligerent drunk or intolerable pest in Parisian nightspots, of delegating to his drinking buddy, the younger, bigger, and stronger Ernest Hemingway, with the airy instruction “Deal with him, Hemingway. Deal with him”). This one features not only London and the most significant American weirdist between Poe and Lovecraft, but also George Sterling (who is likely to notch more index appearances than anyone save Clark Ashton Smith and possibly HPL in Scott Connors’ can’t-be-published-soon-enough CAS biography) and is on loan from Richard Saunders’ 1985 Ambrose Bierce: The Making of a Misanthrope. The Saunders book is not unimpeachable–“Although the poem received national attention and made other critics accept Sterling as a serious poet, ‘A Wine of Wizardry’ was far from the masterpiece Bierce had labeled it,” he snipes at the key non-Klarkashtonian poem in CAS studies –but I will always be grateful to it for the disclosure that London squired Sterling “through the exotic world of Chinese brothels on the Barbary Coast”–and for this epic encounter:

[Sterling] seized upon the opportunity of arranging a meeting between the two titans by personally inviting London (a member of the club since 1904) to attend the August 1910 High Jinks at the Bohemian Grove, which he knew Bierce would be attending.

Clearly Sterling was a great admirer of both men. but his motive for putting together the two writers, one of whom was known to be a socialist and the other known contentiously to label anyone veering from the accepted political norm as an anarchist, is still a matter of conjecture. Some biographers suggest that Sterling set up the meeting to establish once and for all which man would be his guru. Others think it was simply a mischievous prank. Regardless of his motive, in the summer of 1910 the chief players in this little drama were approaching the event quite differently.

While Bierce had spent most of the early summer leisurely canoeing on the Russian River and hiking in the woods around Guerneville, London had become despondent over the results of the July Fourth heavyweight boxing match held in Reno between the great white hope, Jim Jeffries, and the reigning title holder and first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson. A white supremacist, London covered the fight for the San Francisco Chronicle, and after Johnson knocked out Jeffries in the fifteenth round the paper’s headline read “Jack London Sees Tragedy in the Defeat of White Champion.” Moreover, London had lost a considerable amount of money by betting on Jeffries, and he was in such a terrible mood over it that he was ready for a fight himself, writing to Charmian in late July about his impending meeting with Bierce: “Damn Ambrose Bierce. I won’t look for trouble, but if he jumps me, I’ll go him a few at his own game. I can play act and abuse just for the pure fun of it. If we meet, and he’s introduced, I shall wait and watch for his hand to go out first. If it doesn’t, hostilities begin right there.”

When the two men finally converged under the same roof at the Bohemian Club in August a nervous George Sterling thought better of the match up. “You mustn’t meet him,” the poet pleaded with Bierce, according to his own account of the tension-filled encounter. “You’d be at each other’s throats in five minutes.”

“Nonsense,” said Bierce, already tipsy and leaning on the rustic redwood bar at the club, “bring him on. I’ll treat him like a Dutch uncle.”

As it turned out Bierce kept his word, for when a huge crowd of club members gathered around the bar to witness what they thought would be the English-language culmination of two celebrated and opposing points of view, all they saw was a tentative introduction by Sterling, an outstretched hand offered by Bierce and London’s acceptance of his open gesture of friendship. While the threat of actual physical combat was lessened by Bierce’s uncharacteristically warm greeting, most observers still stood at a safe distance. There was no need to be leery. Bierce had somehow learned that Jack and Charmian’s first child had died only a few days after birth several months earlier and had therefore decided in advance that things would be kept light. Having lost two grown children of his own, Bierce was sensitive to London’s loss, although the subject was never brought up. Instead the two men matched each other drink for drink and gradually found they had more in common than they thought. Bierce had worked for William Randolph Hearst when the man had first broken into newspaper publishing after acquiring the Examiner, and London had done some brilliant reporting for that same newspaper while covering the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. Furthermore, their mutual damnation and total rejection of the artists’ colony at Carmel created an odd intellectual bond. Bierce’s comment that he would never want to be identified with Carmel because he was “warned by Hawthorne and Brook Farm” (a reference to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s brief but disappointing association with an experimental art colony in West Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1841) reflected exactly what London felt, and in fact one of London’s novels published three years later, The Valley of the Moon, was his vindication of the choice to marry Charmian and live in isolated Glen Ellen.

Politics aside, the two writers proceeded to get so blitzed that Sterling and Arnold Genthe (the famed society photographer who also managed to capture the early Carmel years, as well as everyday scenes of the pre-1906 Chinatown in San Francisco) were forced to come to their aid. According to Genthe’s autobiography As I Remember, he and Sterling were forced to remove the two men to a nearby campsite, where the four of them sat around a roaring fire drinking and philosophizing until “none of us quite knew what we were talking about.”

After several more hours of serious drinking the quartet demonstrated the degree of their inebriation by deciding to continue their alcoholic odyssey at Upshack, about two miles away. After crossing the dangerous Russian River in a rowboat the men stumbled along a set of railroad tracks that paralleled the river for a few hundred yards, then noticed Bierce had disappeared. Retracing their route while calling out his name, the three men finally spotted him at the bottom of a twenty-foot embankment. Evidently Bierce’s derby hat had fallen off his head and rolled to the water’s edge, and he had climbed down the steep slope to fetch it and decided to curl up in a soft fern bed for a short nap. When his companions woke him up he put on his derby, climbed back up the tracks and resumed the trek to his brother’s cabin as if nothing had happened. Upon reaching Upshack Sterling promptly passed out, and Bierce and London continued to drink and talk the night away like long-lost buddies, each consuming a bottle of Three Star Martel in the process.

The Great Tragedy of REH Publishing


Rob’s clarifications in his Breckinridge Elkins post helped me nail down what Breck books to get and why — but also have me dwelling somewhat sullenly on what I call The Great Tragedy of REH Publishing. Howard scholars have all the texts and pulp tearsheets necessary to put together a complete uniform collection of REH. Howard fans have literally grown old and died waiting for this stuff. And yet decade after decade goes by without this happening. Why?

Primarily, the reasons are legal. I’ve been privy to all sorts of behind-the-scenes conversations and correspondence between the editors and publishers of Howard, going back many decades. At every turn, worthy ideas and projects are stymied by convoluted contracts between various parties, all warring over their claim to Howard’s work. Publisher #1 can’t print a Complete This because two of the stories have been licensed to Publisher #2 for an Incomplete That.

Then there are the editorial decisions. Things like how to design your book, what cover and font to use, how to edit it, what front matter and appendices to include. This series of books had pure texts — but died from lack of funds. That series of books didn’t die — but the texts were substandard. Almost without fail, every attempt to make a nice set of Howard material has been marred by poor decision-making.

Most of my colleagues in this field think I’m just being picky and a spoil-sport, but I am far from alone in these criticisms. I was perusing a copy of the new issue of Black Gate magazine the other day, which contains among much else an illuminating review of Del Rey’s Bran Mak Morn: The Last King. The reviewer, Jackson Kuhl, is a fantasy fan who is not a member of the Howardian inner circle of scholars, collectors, and admirers. To us insiders, of course, Bran is a major Howard hero, period. As such, any book that gives us every story and fragment along with the kitchen sink is a good thing. But listen to Kuhl’s gripes:

The Last King…holds only brief excitement for those simply desirous of pulp adventure. The book comprises a mishmash of Howardania…here’s the kicker: of the seven complete stories, only three actually feature Bran Mak Morn. The shadow of the character looms over a fourth but he never appears onstage. A $16 for the volume, that’s four bucks a pop…the editors can only work with what Howard produced. Yet the decision to dedicate an entire omnibus to a character in three (perhaps four) finished stories is strange — a move suitable for Wandering Star’s collector’s series, maybe, but not for a general audience TPB. All four could have been easily inserted within a broader collection of barbarian tales (like Wandering Star’s own The Ultimate Triumph).

Kuhl ends with the assessment that, “Readers hungry for sword-&-sorcery will find The Last King more gristle than meat.” Elsewhere in the review he does go out of his way to repeat what we all think: that getting some pure texts into print is a notable and worthy achievement. But when you have fervent fantasy fans like Kuhl — who you would think are the perfect target audience for Del Rey’s Howard books — leveling such pointed criticism at a volume containing some of Howard’s very best work, something is wrong. How many other fans have dutifully purchased these Wandering Star/Del Rey releases, growing more frustrated not only at the meat-to-gristle ratio, but at the repetition of stories among different books? By the time the two-volume Best of REH is released this year, some of the stories will have been republished no less than three separate times in this series. At what point does a fan — a general reader shelling out real money — get sick of paying for the same stories, or for hundreds of pages of incomplete material and editorializing they don’t care about?

It’s not just fans who are rebelling. As editor of The Cimmerian I get a lot of mail from guys who rank among the most passionate Howard collectors in the world, but who are not public figures in Howard fandom. It is hard to overestimate the rage they feel at Wandering Star for promising them a set of Deluxe books but then leaving them high and dry. Pure text fans paid in many cases $500-$1000 for their copy of The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, only to later discover that the book actually contains several impure and uncorrected stories. Even ten years later, none of the people involved have released an errata sheet of any kind, adding insult to injury. First edition collectors, meanwhile, looked past this gaffe only to be stunned when — after shelling out $200 each for the first two Conan volumes — the third appeared first from Del Rey as a trade paperback, making that the true first edition, and destroying the first-edition collectability of the Wandering Star volumes. When in V3n11 a Cimmerian reader informed us that while on vacation in Spain he saw a complete set of the WS Conans put out by a Spanish publisher, in Deluxe slipcased editions with all the trimmings, and much cheaper than the WS volumes, it was the cherry on the cake of the American collectors’ nightmare. Hablamos Espanol, amigos?

Scholars should be tossed into this boiling pot as well. Word on the street is that much talk at the Windy City Pulp Convention was dedicated to grumbling about how outrageously bad the first REH Foundation release was. Those who managed to swallow their pride and shell out upwards of $50 (including shipping) for the volume — despite recoiling from the wildly inappropriate Little Red Riding Hood cover — received a tome of disheartening thinness, with poems set against absurdly inept margins that had text running into the middle of the book and leaving vast expanses of white space on the page edge. Didn’t anyone print a test copy, for Pete’s sake? Fifty bucks, gone — and now word is out that another poetry book titled Selected Poems is being released this year, doubtless for another $50 all told. With the first being so anemic, could not the two have been combined? Or better yet, how about releasing The Complete Poems of REH for $50? I know of many Howard fans who find themselves unable to justify buying these books or joining the Foundation due to these problems, myself among them.

All of the above, then, stems from legal issues combined with bad business and editorial decisions, and to this day it has Howard publishing in a stranglehold. I’m convinced that a 95%-99.9% pure REH set could be collected and published over, say, a year. A set containing all the stories, all the poems, all the letters, and then several appendix volumes of fragments, incomplete stories, non-fiction, juvenilia, and other miscellany. A uniform set of hardcovers, with good solid production values. Texts could be restored to eliminate political correctness when we know of it, as in the Breck books Rob wrote of, but production would not be held up for years waiting for original typescripts to surface — the “perfect” would not be allowed to become the enemy of the “good.” As Cimmerian readers learned in V2n2 and V2n3, the Bison series has its share of minor typos, true — but that five-volume series is uniform, elegant, and packed to the gills with solid REH material. What I would give for a similarly imperfect but Pretty Damn Good extension of that set including the rest of Howard’s work.

If I had carte blanche to make my own set, what exactly would it look like? Hard to say for sure until such time as I do it, but I have some general guidelines in mind. Big, full-sized, uniform hardcovers. Big, elegant, readable font. Ribbon bookmark sewn in. Acid-free paper. Black boards with gold-impressed text. No dustjackets, but with paintings pressed into the front cover. Slipcases that actually fit the book comfortably, unlike the maddening too-tight ones that came with the Wandering Star Bran Mak Morn: The Last King.

Covers would be Frazetta paintings for the Conan volumes and for as many of the others as would make sense, and classy photos of REH on the Letters and Poetry volumes. Inside there will be no art, no essays, no footnotes. Just brief introductions giving the reader a bit of context, and maps when necessary in the text or as fold-outs glued onto the back boards, like Tolkien publishers have done for so many years.

Stories would be published only once, and the main volumes would contain only complete stories, arranged for maximum reader impact, not according to some artificial or pedantic chronology. These books would be designed to really wow the Jackson Kuhls of the world, the people who come to REH to read his stories — what a concept. Characters with enough material would get their own volumes, while lesser characters and genres would be combined in various ways.

Incomplete, fragmentary, or otherwise marginal material would be reserved for a set of Appendix volumes at the rear of the set. In the case of poetry, in the main set there would be a big Poetry of Robert E. Howard volume containing only what I judge to be his best verse, the stuff that is to poetry what Conan was to prose. Later, in the Appendix volumes, his more marginal poems — limericks, juvenilia, etc. — would be collected separately, or left to be found in the letters in which they appeared. That way I could hand someone the poetry book without being embarrassed at all the crap mixed in with the gems.

All of my idle brainstorming might produce a set that looks like this, with each subject taking up as many volumes as needed:

Solomon Kane
Sailor Steve Costigan
Breckinridge Elkins
El Borak
Historical Adventure
Fantasy Adventure
Modern Adventure

Doubtless there would be a thousand little tweaks to make along the way, but this is a set I would love to own and read. And once something like this is collected and formatted, it wouldn’t be difficult to update the texts for each new printing as better versions are discovered, or to repackage various volumes as meaty and fan-friendly mass market or trade papers, or to extricate certain tales for Best Of or Penguin Classics and Library of America type books. The trick is to do the best job you can, but to complete such a set, now, come hell or high water, even if it means publishing some stories that will surely be corrected in various ways once the typescripts are found and analyzed.

Tolkien publishing has done this for years, putting out the same books in edition after edition, in a variety of different deluxe and mass market formats, with each one more or less improving on the last. At no point did people go crazy over the many, many typos or errors to be found in these books. Lord of the Rings and company were popular, errors and all — the basic achievement was there for all to see and appreciate, crystal clear. It’s the same with REH: of course it’s nice to get more pure whenever possible, but it would be far nicer to have all of his work in a uniform set of hardcovers. When I think of the hundreds of thousands of dollars sunk into the Wandering Star series, with most of the money being spent not on Howard’s words but on goatskin covers, and high-priced comic book art, and specially made paper, and dozens of pages given not to Howard’s words but to the writing of others, I sigh with regret at what could have been. A fraction of that money handed over to a professional editor who knows how to quickly assemble books and get them proofed, and a fraction more dedicated to good solid printing and marketing, and the Robert E. Howard Library of Classics would have been complete and in the hands of fans long ago.

I’ve accepted that this state of affairs is not likely to change in my lifetime, not until everything Howard ever wrote is available in the public domain sometime around 2050. Only then will some enterprising fan who is a true bookman be able to assemble a complete and professional set of Howard’s work, along the way making the proper decisions and creating something special for those of us who primarily value Howard’s words, without obsessing over unattainable perfection. Since I won’t be alive to see that day, I suppose that I’ll end up engaging in a bit of private bookmaking one of these years, to create a personal, one-of-a-kind set. It will sit on my shelf for my enjoyment alone, and thus at long last, a least in one little corner of the world, the Great Tragedy of REH Publishing will become history.

More David C. Smith


A few posts ago I mentioned the REH-related interview of fantasist David C. Smith recently posted at the Black Gate website. Now Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones has posted a meaty addendum to that interview at the Black Gate blog. The questions focus heavily on Sword-and-Sorcery, Robert E. Howard and related subjects. There’s even some talk about frequent Cimmerian poetry contributor Dick Tierney. Interesting reading.

We Could Be Heroes — Just For One Book

I’m not a compulsive or completist Howard collector, but I can be tempted by curios and divergent packagings, especially from Outremer. The shameful truth is, I own 2 editions of Conan of Aquilonia (two more than can be justified on the basis of sword-and-sorcery merit).


The first is of course the original 1977 Ace Books paperback designed to look as much like the lost Twelth Tribe of Lancer as possible, but with a Boris Vallejo cover painting: Conan (a well-preserved graybeard) and a catamite-resembling Conn confront a Zembabwan spearman atop the least menacing wyvern in reptilian mythohistory.

(Continue reading this post)

Blogging: Yet Another Job “Americans Won’t Do.”

Well, a few days ago I finally received my Deluxe edition of The Children of Húrin — arch-collector Doris Salley will be horrified to learn that Amazon mailed it to me with a slight ding in the slipcase, and I kept it. It has taken all of my willpower not to take a week off from work and read it from cover to cover. I have dipped into the Introduction and Appendices, and spot-checked some of my favorite moments from parts of the tale I have read before. It has the feel of a DVD director’s cut, with new passages that are fine in their own right but feel tacked on and a bit superfluous because of how well I know the original. Still, there’s a lot of new material, and I’m really looking forward to getting the time to read this.

If I got my copy, then Steve Tompkins must have got his, which means he’s likely read it several times by now, with a mental highlighter covering the pages in neon notations for use in the new essays already percolating within the supercomputer he calls a brain. I think we can assume he won’t be posting here for the next few days, until the Tolkien fever wears off. Rob is likely in the middle of the horrendous last few weeks of the school year, wrapping up his teaching duties in time to head down to Howard Days. Mark is off at the movies, probably running around the corridors of his new movie theater decked out in zombie makeup and scaring the kids attempting to sneak into the matinée for Twenty-Eight Weeks Later. Which leaves me taking a bit of time away from finishing the June issue of TC to point you to a few things of interest.

Over at Black Gate magazine, there is a new interview with a guy who has been kind of important to some members of the inner circle of Howard fans: writer David C. Smith. A former fantasist who penned a number of Howard pastiches in the late 70s and early 80s, Smith also had a stint in REHupa and is still friends with several members of that organization. In the Black Gate interview, you can read a bit about his career, how he managed to snag the Howard gigs, his writing style that pays homage to Howard’s pulp roots, and more. Check it out.

In other news, frequent Cimmerian contributor Gary Romeo has started a new Yahoo! group called “D is for de Camp.” This is a forum to discuss the work of the late science fiction grandmaster, including his intimate association with Howard publishing. Gary already has a few dozen people posting over there, and is looking for more posters and readers. I imagine a lot of the postings will relate to REH in some way, so put it into your Howardian online reading rotation.

Finally, there’s a few new posts over at, both by Morgan Holmes, who has been away from blogging for awhile but is now back with a vengeance. One post is about the version of the Prose Edda that Howard owned and read, and the other is Part II of his personal history of his involvement with REH fandom.

Not much else going on save for frantic preparations for Howard Days. Every year I try to get ahead of things and every year I end up rushing at the last minute to get everything finished. Still, it’s been worth it — the June TC is shaping up to be a real hot issue, with some great articles that will keep you turning the pages. It’s one of those issues that has a little something for everyone.

Etymology of “Blood and Thunder”

For those who are interested, check out this page from the World Wide Words website, which gives a historical analysis of the phrase “Blood and Thunder.” This commonly used expression in Howardian circles has its roots in the eighteenth century and earlier.

Howard Days News


Alright, so I finally sat down and worked up a “Howard Days 2007 Information Page,” and popped it up over at For those of you who have never been to REH Days before, there is a lot of useful tips and suggestions to be found throughout the document. For the rest of you, skimming the old sections and concentrating on the new is your best bet. Here are some highlights to be aware of.

First, notice that the schedule is a bit looser this year, with a few less panels and more free time factored in. This is to give us a bit of a break from the somewhat hectic schedules of years prior, giving us time during the day to take a day trip or two and see a bit more of Cross Plains and its environs than we normally do. You may want to drive down to Brownwood to see the Howard collection at Howard Payne University, then cruise on to Bangs and Clear Creek cemetery to visit Novalyne’s grave, then to Greenleaf cemetery to spend the time to see not only REH’s final resting place, but those of his friend Tevis Clyde Smith (in the back of the cemetery), or of Noah Byers and other historical personages. Or you could drive to Cross Cut and see where Howard lived in his youth. Or you could walk from the Howard house down the road to Turkey Creek, site of a few Howard anecdotes. Or perhaps you’ll just want to take an afternoon nap in your motel room, or chill out at the Dairy Queen, or fan yourself under the pavilion or in the dining room of the Howard Museum. Any way you spend it, I think having a bit more free time is a good thing. Most of us lament that we don’t have enough time to talk to everyone we want to at REH Days, so this should help in that respect as well.

Second, I have provided some more details about the Thursday trip to Fort McKavett and Enchanted Rock State Park. It was a fun trip the first time I took it in 2005, and I think everyone who goes this year will have a blast. If you’ve been going to Howard Days every year and feel a bit of “same old, same old” creeping in, this excursion should shake things up and provide a welcome change.

The panels this year are all focused far more on Howard’s work and characters than his biography, so general fans will have a lot more to sink their teeth into. From what I’ve heard so far from the panelists, they should be a lot of fun and very informative.

Of course, the Cimmerian Awards will be presented on Friday night, and with the huge influx of Centennial product last year, the races were the most thrilling and competitive ones yet.

And remember, Project Pride needs as many Silent Auction items as they can get. If you are a collector, why not send them some of your duplicates? If you’re an artist, how about sending some nice drawings for them to auction to fans? If you are a Howard publisher, perhaps a signed galley of one of your books could be mailed to them. Even items only tangentially related to REH are fair game. Lovecraft books, Leiber books, Wagner, Saunders, CAS, etc. are all welcome. In past years some people have made Howard woodcuts, Howard jean jackets, Hyborian maps, and many other one-of-a-kind collectibles for the auction. Use your imagination, and do your part towards keeping the Howard Museum in good repair and Howard Days a thriving concern. Send your auction items to:

Project Pride
P.O. Box 534
Cross Plains, TX 76443
ATTN: REH Days Silent Auction

If you are keen to share a rental car or hotel room with someone to defray some of the expense of the trip, post your request on one of the Howard forums listed on the sidebar of this website. Howard Days can be a pretty cheap trip when you utilize some forethought.

So if you can get down to Texas the second weekend of June, you’re in for a very nice time. The Centennial is past, but Howard Days continues as strong as ever. See you in a few weeks.

Bad First “Impressions”

Despite my best efforts, occasionally an order gets damaged in transit, or affected by even more minor factors. I just received word from one customer that the Cimmerian Library issue from his most recent order made a subtle impression on the cover of his deluxe V4n2, due to the tightness with which both issues were packed together.

Just to reiterate for those who don’t know, I have a pretty liberal return policy. If you are unsatisfied with your issue for any reason, simply mail it back with a note (the package doesn’t have to be fancy, as I’ll be destroying the ish upon receipt anyway), and I’ll send you out a new one along with a cheque covering your postage. In the meantime I’ll be thinking up new ways to solve this latest wrinkle in my shipping procedures.

V4n2 and Cim Lib #4 ready to ship


Our fourth year of production continues with the release of V4n2, an issue that took a long time to put together. It features a deep symposium about the two anthologies released last year, and a lot of research went into the creation of each article. This is the most text-heavy issue I can remember in a long time. Nary a picture breaks up the flow, save of course the art of Andrew Cryer. Just tens of thousands of words that are sure to stimulate your mind and provide you with new avenues of thinking about Howard’s work. I’ll be interested to see how readers like it. It’s probably the most intellectually confrontational and incendiary issue since V1n1 rocketed TC onto the Howardian scene in April, 2004.

Another pleasure to be found in this issue is the poetry. Longtime Lovecraft fan Fred Phillips provides the verse, and I daresay he is one of the more talented poets I’ve featured. I’ve already bought another one from him, and hope he keeps contributing for years to come.

Subscriber orders are all packed and ready to ship — they should get out this weekend. But this month you are in for an added treat. I’m also releasing the fourth volume in my Cimmerian Library line of booklets, and this one is loads of fun, definitely one of the best yet:


Not only does this booklet reprint one of the classic Howard essays, but it offers a number of other articles written by Herron that expand on the themes begun in the original “Conan vs. Conantics.” Karl Edward Wagner comes under some scrutiny, as does Richard Tierney and his fellow pasticher David C. Smith. And of course, L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter are analyzed in that way that only Don Herron can pull off. Everyone who has seen the cover thinks this is one of the all-time great cover images, based on pure entertainment value as well as the subtext present, and I’m inclined to agree. Says It All.

My next goal is to get the June issue edited and published in time for Howard Days, along with another Cimmerian Library book I think you will all enjoy. I’m still working on the V3 Index, and that might appear soon after Howard Days, perhaps in time to ship out with the August issue. The slipcases for V3 are coming too, but they have proven to be quite expensive and time-consuming to make at this unique extra-large size, and so it’s been slow going. The price on those will likely be $80, due to having a footprint double the size of last year. Making them two pieces rather than a typical one-piece open-faced slipcase also adds $$$ to the cost. I think that for V4, with a standard bi-monthly galaxy of issues, I’ll be able to reuse some of the old dies and designs and get the price back down to $40.

“Friends Who Never Grow Stale”: A Historical Novelist Steeped in Howard


Quick — name the opposing sides at the battle of Pelusium. No? Okay, who were the besiegers and the besieged at Halicarnassus? If you don’t know, but would like to, or do know, and are intrigued by the thought of fiction that re-creates these ancient history flashpoints, I recommend unto thee novelist Scott Oden, the author of Men of Bronze (2004), Memnon (2006), and the upcoming Lion of Cairo. It might seem as culturally improbable for rural Alabama to produce a superior historical novelist as it was for Cross Plains to produce a world-class adventure writer and weird fictionist, but the hinterland, Erlik be thanked, continues to be full of surprises.

In a December 23, 2004 post to his blog (one of the friendliest to initiated and uninitiated alike that I’ve yet seen) Oden wrote “I am, and will always be, my first reader. I write stories I’d enjoy, stories I’d buy.” That must be the reason why others have been enjoying, buying, and even translating him into different languages (the best historical fiction sneers at borders, linguistic or political). In March Men of Bronze gave me one of the best calling-in-sick days of my entire life in the workforce, and Morgan Holmes also took time out from his recent agenda of drop-kicking a certain newcomer to matters Mak Morn-ian off the white cliffs of Dover to devour the novel.

(Continue reading this post)