Motor City Madness


I discovered the following gem several years ago while reading through some old REHupas, and wonder if my fellow blogger Steve Trout remembers it. Steve is currently the longest serving REHupan, having been a member since 1976 with only a short gap of inactivity during all those years.

In his ‘zine Beltric Writes #10 for July 1979, Steve ran a copy of a Howard-related newspaper item he had come across. The funny thing from a modern perspective is the author of the piece. Steve wrote, “This here on the right is from the letters column of the Detroit News,” and then reproduced the following tidbit:


There must be something special about the 11th of June. It was on June 11, 1936, that Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian, committed suicide. On June 11, 1979, the Detroit News decided to drop the Conan the Barbarian comic strip. And also on June 11, I decided to drop the News.

— Gary Romeo, Royal Oak

Back then, of course, Gary was unknown to Trout and the rest of REHupa, he was just a name in a newspaper. It would be almost two decades later, in October of 1997, when Gary would sign up with REHupa and formally “meet” Trout and the rest of the a.p.a.’s top-flight Howardists. I’m guessing Gary never knew that his first appearance in the pages of REHupa was actually in 1979! Earlier even than Rusty!

PS — June 11, 1979 has an even greater, non-REH resonance for me: that was the day John Wayne died. The thirtieth anniversary of the Duke’s death is this year.

Steve adds: Yes, I came across that some years ago. Gary actually visited my sf fan club during those years, but we didn’t meet. Obviously, a pastiche-lover even then.

The 10K


There is no literary work, to me, half as zestful as rewriting history in the guise of fiction. Every page of history teems with dramas that should be put on paper . . . — Robert E. Howard

Apparently Paul Kearney has a similar outlook when it comes to rewriting history, since his latest book, The Ten Thousand (Solaris, 2008), is a retelling of historical events. More specifically it is the Anabasis of Xenophon, the story of a large mercenary army recruited to fight in Persia around 450 BC, and then left to fight their way home, transplanted to a fantasy world.

On Kearney’s fictional world of Kuf, mankind shares the planet with two other humanoid species, the tall, yellow-eyed and gold-skinned Kufr and the yeti-like Qaf. The Kufr have the world-spanning Empire, and stand in for the Persians. The humans have a smaller continent to the West, and are called Macht. They are clearly Greco-Roman in culture, war-like, with city-states fighting amongst the ruins of a fabled empire of their own.

As you might expect from a story based on history, there is little magic or fantasy aside from the setting. The Macht have some magical armor, supposedly derived from their gods, but that is about it.

Some critics have compared Kearney to David Gemmell, but I think they are worlds apart. In a Gemmell book, virtue will always triumph, if at a cost. In Kearney’s work it is far less easy to tell where the virtue lies, let alone if it will win. The Macht mercenaries in this book, for example, are our protagonists, but they have come to a peaceful land for the express purpose of waging war on behalf of a usurper. When he dies in battle, the mercenaries try to broker a truce so that they can return home, but the emperor wants nothing but their destruction and treacherously assassinates the generals sent as ambassadors. It’s almost like Howard remarked about one of his Crusader stories, “all the characters complete scoundrels, and everybody double-crossing everybody else.” Well, not quite. Some of the characters have a sense of honor, insofar as their lives make it possible.

I did not like this book as much as I enjoyed The Monarchies of God series, but it was well worth the time. Recommended for readers who enjoy the military fantasies of Glen Cook or David Drake.

Interestingly, I learned the 1979 cult favorite movie The Warriors was also loosely based on the Anabasis, and director Walter Hill wanted to have the audience be aware of its Greek roots, but the executives said no. A remake is in the works, as if we needed one.

“Man in black”: Nick Owchar’s take on Solomon Kane

“Before Conan, there was Kane, a Puritan swordsman on a restless search for justice.”


That’s the lead-in from Nick Owchar’s, “Man in black: Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane,” published this May 24th in his monthly column for the Los Angeles Times. Owchar, deputy book editor for the LA Times, turns in a quite respectable piece on the Man From Devonshire (and his creator). His column, “The Siren’s Call” (a title I truly dig), was a joy and revelation once I (very recently) discovered it. Dear readers, brethren, kindred and fellow travellers, Ol’ Nick is one of us. Peruse his previous columns (future blog-fodder, for me) and tell me it ain’t so. (Continue reading this post)

Last Part of Saunders’ “Luendi” online

Charles R. Saunders' Website

This is the last chapter of the story. To recap, Charles Saunders wrote last month:

I’m going to try something new at My next four blogs are going to be a serialized story entitled “Luendi.”

“Luendi” is one of my vintage short stories, written at the same time I was working on the first Imaro stories. That would be the early 1970s. It was one of the few stories I’d written that was not set in Nyumbani, or some other, unnamed fantasy version of Africa. But it wasn’t exactly modern mainstream, either. Its setting is the Southern Africa of the late 1800s, around the time the Zimbabwe ruins were first discovered by Europeans. I did have something of an agenda when I wrote this, as I was a strong opponent of apartheid. So, I thought I would get one back — symbolically speaking — against the colonists and settlers of that time.

The story was published in the September 1977 issue of The Diversifier, a popular small-press magazine of the time. Times have changed a lot since then, bit I hope “Luendi” still has some resonance after all these years.

It will debut on Friday, May 1 and the next three installments will appear on May 8, May 15, & May 22.

If you haven’t yet, head on over to Charles’ website and read the whole story. And remember that Charles’ revised edition of Imaro III: The Trail of Bohu is now available here.

Final Conan Volume Coming From WS/Book Palace Books

Muchas gracias to our amigo, Bill Thom, for informing all of us over on the Official Robert E. Howard Forum that Wandering Star has signed a deal to publish the final deluxe, hardcover volume in the Conan series.

Through an agreement with Wandering Star, Book Palace Books will bring out a deluxe hardcover of The Conquering Sword of Conan that will (presumably) match the earlier, Wandering Star editions of The Coming of Conan of Cimmeria and The Bloody Crown of Conan.

The book features 13 colour paintings and 52 tonal paintings in a
signed and numbered edition of 1000 copies.

Limited Clothbound edition of 1000 – $195Conan3Slipcase-L
Limited leatherbound edition of 100 – $500

Publication – November 2009

Not much else is known at this time.

Enterprising Reboot


I would suppose that everyone who is interested in the new “Star Trek” movie has seen it by now, so I won’t worry about spoilers. A long time ago, Fritz Leiber wrote a story — “Try and Change the Past” (Amazing Science Fiction, March 1958) — postulating that the space-time continuum resists change. If a time traveler alters the past, the future may be slightly changed, but soon the future finds its way to the former norm. “Star Trek” reminds me very much of this story; while the intrusion of a Romulan from the future changes the history of the galaxy in some major ways, by the end of the movie most of the crew of the Enterprise have found their way to the positions and characters that we know from ST:TOS.

First of these history alterations is the destruction of a starship commanded by James Kirk’s father. We see the fatherless Kirk grow up as a juvenile delinquent; him stealing and wrecking his step-father’s classic car is our introduction to the character. Next he is seen hanging out in a bar, hitting on the lovely cadet Uhura and getting in a fight. There is a James Dean rebel quality in Kirk 2.0, or to quote from Ted Anthony’s perceptive AP review:

[Chris] Pine’s Kirk is Shatner’s on Red Bull and vodka — rebellious and sarcastic, vaguely felonious, tragically hip, soaked in irony and maybe a bit ADD. He leaps, then — maybe — looks.

I found the scene where Kirk overcomes the Kobayashi Maru no-win scenario particularly highlights this aspect, as Kirk doesn’t even pretend not to be cheating. And somehow I suspect, egalitarian future and all, that if this Kirk had been raised by his father he would, like the 60’s Kirk, prefer blondes.

Ted Anthony paints Kirk as an iconic American character, born of the New Frontier but true heir of the old one, having a dual nature, exuberant and impetuous, yet serious and intelligent; “hawk and dove, humble and arrogant, futurist and traditionalist — and in the most American duality of all, childlike and completely adult.”

That last duality brings Breckinridge Elkins to mind, somehow.

Frontier scholar Richard Slotkin weighs in comparing Kirk with the persona George Bush tried to mould for himself, the “compassionate conservative” — but notes Kirk’s “right-wing style” is actually controlled by his “ingrained progressivism.”

Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto (Spock) are well-cast as the young leads, which really helps. Add in a strong story which, from the get-go, allows the writers freedom to stray from the massive weight of Star Trek lore, a powerful villian played with dire scowls by Eric Bana, great effects and plenty of action and you have a film that should captivate old fans and new alike.

Hurin the Steadfast: Part One of “The Wanderings of Hurin”


Part Two: ‘Tôl acharn!’

Part Three: The Long Road to Menegroth

My esteemed colleague, Brian Murphy, recently reviewed The Children of Húrin, so it seemed apposite to follow that with an account of what transpired after the death of Nienor and Túrin. Both died that fateful day above Cabed Naeramarth, but their parents, Morwen and Húrin, lived on. The curse of Morgoth upon the House of Húrin had yet to come to full fruition.

The tale of Húrin’s wanderings has come down to us, primarily, in one volume, The War of the Jewels: The Later Silmarillion, edited by Christopher Tolkien. Christopher Tolkien traces the evolution of the saga from the “lost continuation” of “The Grey Annals” (an account of the First Age written by JRRT in the early 1950s) to a “substantial complex of writing” which seems to have been composed in the latter half of that decade. The title that the elder Tolkien settled upon was “The Wanderings of Húrin.” All of this “substantial complex of writing” was in service of fleshing out the stories (he did the same, or began to, for his tales of Túrin and Tuor) that Tolkien had first envisioned in the ’20s and ’30s, fresh from the horrors of the Great War.

Tolkien, after the completion of his novel, The Lord of the Rings, went back to The Silmarillion with the intention of expanding it and bringing it into closer accord with his tale of the Fall of Sauron, which was, in many ways, an addendum and afterthought to the previous work. Tolkien had always intended to see The Silmarillion published, and in fact, he had submitted it to a befuddled Unwin-Ryan immediately after the unexpected world-wide success of The Hobbit. “The Wanderings of Húrin” was to play a pivotal part in Tolkien’s projected revision and expansion of The Silmarillion.

“The Wanderings of Húrin” is not The Hobbit. One tale was written (spoken, actually) in the early ’30s by JRRT to entertain his children, Christopher Tolkien chief amongst them. The other was begun by Tolkien in the late 1950s, when he saw “double-speak” (a term Orwell didn’t invent, but should have) and an Iron Curtain, with its attendant gulags (how different were Morgoth’s “Hells of Iron,” really?), spreading their influence across his world.

I will not go into the complexities regarding the composition of “Wanderings” here, other than to say Christopher Tolkien noted that his father, fairly early in the narrative, “came to a clearer understanding” of how things stood in Brethil when Húrin the Steadfast appeared at its borders with vindication and vengeance in his mind. As events would show, the shadow of Angband hung close about him.

Knowing what sorrows and horrors befell the eldest son of Galdor in the preceding six decades might allow the unitiated to better appreciate Húrin’s mind-set. (Continue reading this post)

New Howard publications available


Damon Sasser is getting ready to debut the 13th issue of REH: Two-Gun Raconteur. You can pre-order and read a Table of Contents listing here. Of particular interest to Cimmerian readers are the tributes to Steve Tompkins included within.

The 12th issue of The Dark Man is also out, according to their website. Both former Cimmerian blogger Steve Tompkins and current Cimmerian blogger Steve Trout have items in the new ish.

And this year at REH Days, Dennis McHaney’s award-winning REH anthology The Man From Cross Plains will be made available in a newly revised edition, available at the Howard Museum Gift Shop. Details on this year’s REH Days can be found at the REHupa website.

AND DAMON SASSER REPORTS: By the way, The Dark Man website does not have the info on the new issue up yet. Here is the correct info from Bill Thom’s Coming Attractions:

THE DARK MAN Volume 4 Number 2 — Coming in June!

A new issue of THE DARK MAN is expected to be available for Howard Days in June.

The contents include:


“Elements of Sadomasochism in the Fiction and Poetry of Robert E. Howard” by Charles Hoffman

“Giant Intelligent Crabs, Oh My! Haggard and Howard” by Robert McIlvaine

“Sumathi Ramaswamy, The Lost Land of Lemuria: Fabulous Geographies, Catastrophic Histories” Review by David R. Werner (University of La Verne)

“Ken, Asamatsu, editor. Night Voices, Night Journey Lairs of the Hidden Gods Volume 1” Review by Charles Gramlich

“Opinion: An Honorable Retreat: Robert E. Howard as Escapist Writer” by Brian Murphy (Independent Scholar)

This issue will run about 80 pages.

A Challenging Collaboration

horrors_unknown_moskowitzI see my fellow blogger Deuce Richardson has mentioned “The Challenge From Beyond” in his recent post. Unlike “Ghor, Kin-slayer,” however, this round robin actually works as a story, though it certainly has its quirks.

Originally published in the fanzine “Fantasy Magazine” in 1935, and combining the efforts of C. L. Moore, A. Merritt, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Frank Belknap Long, this is more commonly available in Sam Moskowitz’s Horrors Unknown or as a Necronomicon Press chapbook — it’s also free online, having fallen into public domain. Another story of the same title was also created for “Fantasy Magazine” at the same time, with the same title, but this was a science fiction story by five science fiction writers.

One supposes Robert E. Howard was attracted by the idea of collaborating with H. P. Lovecraft — whose contribution is actually the largest. The gist of the story is that a man discovers a crystal cube of extraterrestrial origin, one that has the effect of capturing his soul and transporting it to another world, where he awakes in the form of a giant worm. Perhaps the most infamous part is where the shock of this transformation causes Lovecraft’s protagonist to drop dead in a faint, at which point Robert E. Howard has him awake to shrug it off in a “shit happens” manner and go on a barbaric killing spree. Here Howard’s hero, on a quest for ultimate power, takes the globe that is the god of Yekub in his centipedal grasp.

But perhaps the best writing is Frank Belknap Long’s conclusion. Striving to knit together the disparate strands of what has gone before, he tells of the doom of the man’s body now occupied by an alien mind, and of the benevolent rule of the worm body now controlled by a human mind.

Ghor, Kin-Slayer: A Look Back

ghor_kin-slayerSometime in the late 1970s, the Rev. Jonathan Bacon (a one-time member of REHupa) came up with a fairly cool idea. Bacon was the editor of Fantasy Crossroads, a Howard-centric fanzine. Through Glenn Lord, Bacon had acquired the Robert E. Howard fragment, “Genseric’s Fifth-Born Son” (the title derives from Lord, as far as I can ascertain), a part of the “James Allison” series of reincarnation tales. Bacon thought it would be interesting to bring together many of the active fantasy authors at that time and have them “complete” Howard’s fragment in a round-robin fashion. Robert E. Howard himself had participated in something similar when he wrote a chapter for “The Challenge From Beyond,” a round-robin tale published by the fanzine Fantasy Magazine in late 1935. In some ways, Bacon was just following a trail that REH had helped blaze. However, he chose to discard the Lord title for the fragment as a title for the entire work, deciding upon Ghor, Kin-Slayer as being a better designation.

A more complete account of how Bacon strove to get all chapters of the collaboration he envisioned published is told elsewhere. It suffices to say that only twelve out of seventeen chapters ever saw print in Fantasy Crossroads, the last being in January of 1979.

Jonathan Bacon then dropped off the map. However, Glenn Lord still retained a complete manuscript of all seventeen chapters. Nearly twenty years later, March Michaud of Necronomicon Press, learning of the complete manuscript, decided that he would publish the entire round-robin tale. Utilizing the editing talents of Rusty Burke, Michaud got Ghor, Kin-Slayer published in August, 1997. I received my copy in early 1998.

Ghor, Kin-Slayer is a chimerical beast, no way around it. The contributors to the tale range from Karl Edward Wagner and Charles R. Saunders to A. E. Van Vogt and Marion Zimmer Bradley. I intend to examine the whole story on a chapter-by-chapter basis. For those of you who tend toward spoiler-phobia, I suggest you stop reading right about now.

(Continue reading this post)