My first encounter with REH

I see where in honor of Bob’s birthday people are relating their first encounter with his work. My story is, I think, unique; at least, I’ve never heard a similar one.

I was 14 and had read every Edgar Rice Burroughs story to be found, and a lot of Andre Norton as well. I went to the downtown Sears by bus, to check out their mezzanine bookstore which was the only place I knew that had those Ace paperbacks with the cool Krenkel and Frazetta covers. And my eye was caught by a crudely painted cover with a gory scene of an ape with its arm hacked off and a near-naked hairy guy who was apparently doing the hacking. Apparently Lancer had put out a new printing of the Conan series, but other people had already bought all the Frazetta ones. No matter; this, and the other Duillo-covered one, Conan the Wanderer, looked interesting enough to pick up and take home.

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Jackson Kuhl and “The Obscurity of Clark Ashton Smith”

The 117th anniversary of Clark Ashton Smith’s birth last week was marked by The Cimmerian (here, here, and here), Grognardia, Black Gate, and others with accolades and remembrances. As well it should. Smith, along with Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft, formed the weird fiction triptych of the 1920s and ’30s — and in my opinion, he was the most talented member of a talented group. Yet a recurring question in many of these memorials is why Smith remains uncelebrated in comparison to his partners. This is especially vexing when you consider he outlived the other two by almost a quarter-century.

Blogger Jackson Kuhl (a personage not unknown to long-time TC readers) wrote the above in an entry he posted on Robert E. Howard’s birthday, ironically enough. Kuhl’s article, entitled “The Obscurity of Clark Ashton Smith,” answers the “vexing question” of CAS’ lack of literary prominence by pointing the finger directly at those who control Smith’s estate. Kuhl relates his (ultimately futile) struggles to publish an omnibus gathering together all of the Averoigne stories (a collection yours truly has been waiting for these past two decades). It is a disheartening tale, but one that should be read by every fan of the Bard of Auburn.

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An Austin-tacious Birthday Party for REH

As reported last week, Paul Herman and Dennis McHaney organized a birthday celebration in honor of Robert E. Howard at Opal Divine’s in Austin for Saturday, January 23rd. Here’s a post-party summary from Paul courtesy of the Official Robert E. Howard Forum:

It was a beautiful if windy Saturday in Austin. We started on the deck of Opal Divine’s, a nice place with a broad selection of beers and food. 65-70 degrees (welcome to Texas-style winters!), a brisk wind out of the west. After the wind dumped my beer in my lap (if ONLY someone had caught that on video, pretty amazing), we decided to move it inside. Quite the rogues gallery, with Dennis McHaney, [redacted]*, Dave Hardy and better half, Todd Woods, Joe and Ms. Crawford, and a couple other folks who stopped in that I didn’t know. A rousing toast to REH, and the conversation was on. Much brilliant Howard discussion ensued, as well as just catching up with each other. Good food, cold drinks, and a couple hours of fun camraderie. It is so rare to get to sit around with a group and talk REH, especially such a knowledgeable group. Man that was fun! Definitely worth the drive.

Sounds like a great shindig. All Robert E. Howard fans who were within driving distance and stayed home ([redacted] drove all the way from Vernon) just might hafta hold their manhoods cheap at this point. However, unlike Agincourt, there will be do-overs in the future. A tip of the TC morion to Dennis and Paul for making it all happen.

*Mark hit a deer on the way back from the soiree, by the way. He’s fine, but his car could be better and the deer could be a lot better.

Bradstreet and El Borak

As reported earlier here at The Cimmerian, award-winning artist, Timothy Bradstreet, is the creator behind all of the black-and-white pieces for the upcoming El Borak and Other Desert Adventures from Del Rey. Above is one of his illustrations for that volume (recently posted on the homepage of

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The Were-woman and the Zebra

I first read the name “Robert E. Howard” in the spring of 1975. I had seen a copy of Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian #38 on a spindle-rack in one of those little corner grocery stores whose place has now been taken by stores of convenience in America’s small towns. Having discovered the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs the previous year, I was primed for the sort of adventure the cover seemed to promise. My indulgent and sainted grand-mother, responding as she nearly always did to my boyish entreaties, promptly bought it for me (naked blue chick and all).

Conan #38 was Roy Thomas’ (and John Buscema’s) adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s “The House of Arabu.” Howard’s yarn featured a blonde-haired Argive named Pyrrhas as the protagonist and was set during the twilight years of Sumer. Roy, as he often did with other REH tales, “freely adapted” (his own words, right on the splash page) the yarn as a story of Conan during his time in Turan, which he entitled, “The Warrior and the Were-Woman!”. Over the years, it’s been noted more than once that “Arabu” is one of Howard’s darker tales of high adventure. In my opinion, Thomas managed to convey a lot of that while still toeing the line for the Comics Code.

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Robert E. Howard’s 104th Birthday

There’s all sorts of festivities going on around the web. Go to REHupa to read Indy Cavalier’s little shout-out, then head over to Black Gate for a battery of birthday posts from Howard Jones, Charles Saunders, Ryan Harvey, Bill Ward, and John R. Fultz. Other birthday wishes can be found at Life of a Philippine Gamer, Propheet at the Age of Conan vault, David Smay at HiLoBrow, Tarib at the Age of Conan forums, and The men and women of the official Conan forums.

Since its founding, The Cimmerian has been firmly dedicated to the critical notion that Robert E. Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien stand as equals atop the modern fantasy genre. They are the two impregnable towers of twentieth-century fantasy, the geniuses whose careers serve as wellsprings from which everything else has flowed. Both have seen virtually everything they ever wrote published — drafts, fragments, notes — as fans and scholars dig ever deeper, attempting to understand the spell these men have cast over their literary lives and over the fantasy genre. Over a century after their respective births, neither author looks ready to give up their hold on our imaginations.

On this anniversary of Howard’s birth, think about where he stands critically. His work survives in hundreds of editions — prose, poetry, correspondence, minutiae — running the gamut from the cheapest paperback to deluxe hardcovers costing hundreds of dollars, and from the most unassuming fanzine to Penguin Modern Classics. Movies have been made about his famous fictional characters and about his life. Paintings from the covers of his books have sold for upwards of a million dollars. The house where he lived and wrote is now a museum and an official landmark on the United States Register of Historic Places. Howard endures and thrives even when 99.9% of his era’s authors, including most of the bestsellers of the time, are forgotten. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that not one author in a million can expect the longevity of reputation that Howard enjoys, and that five hundred years from now, when virtually everything we now revere is lost, some kid on Mars will fire up his star-Kindle, read the words “Know, oh prince. . . ,” and soon go “Wow. . . .”

You of course are at liberty to think that a fanciful, overblown prediction, but Howard has a way of frustrating the low expectations of his critics, and I like his chances. One never knows exactly what will survive the years and for how long, but Howard’s brilliance, accessibility, and pop-culture imprint gives him as good an opportunity as anything else to make it.

Singer of Souls

Recently read Adam Stemple’s Singer of Souls, a 2005 urban fantasy that is pretty impressive for a first novel.  The protagonist is Doug, a street musician and junkie who is trying to quit his habit. He decides to go away to Scotland and stay with his Gran, who warily takes him in. Things seem to be going well until he meets a strange, beautiful woman who gives him the ability to see fairies, bogies, goblins and many more, who come to Edinburg every year for a trade fair. This is a pause in their usual state of war in their own world, when hostilities are suspended for a time.  But humans, especially humans who can see them, are always fair game. She gives him the Sight as part of a plan, but her schemes go awry at the end. The bantering, light tone of the first-person narration masks the fact that this is really a pretty dark fantasy, on the order of Adam Corby, Matthew Stover or some of KEW’s tales. I think most Howard fans would like it, even if it does have elves. They’re not nice elves. It also sports a nice Charles Vess cover, which complements the novel well.

Nu Millennium’s “Conan”: Jason Momoa


Read about it here.*

Words fail me. That’s probably best.

*It has been confirmed on the Nu Image/Nu Millennium site here.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Merritt

Way too many cool authors were born in January. In fact, there are so many it’s hard to keep track at times (my abject apologies to the shade of Jack London). I would advise any prospective parents wanting to produce an author-child of exceptional talents to strive mightily in the months of April and May.

Luckily for The Cimmerian, James Maliszewski reminded us all that today is the birthday of Abraham Merritt. Using his Grognardia blog as a bully pulpit, Maliszewski once again preached the gospel of A. Merritt.

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REH Birthday Party at Opal Divine’s This Saturday

In honor of Robert E. Howard’s nativity, Dennis McHaney and Paul Herman are throwing a wee soiree for the Man From Cross Plains at Opal Divine’s (the Penn field location) in Austin on Saturday. The festivities start at 2 p.m. and go ’til close. Jack and Barbara Baum (former owners of the REH literary estate) just might attend. Word on the street is that TC alumnus, [redacted], has also threatened to grace Austin with his presence for the occasion.