Christopher Lee: Metal God (and so much more)

“…the older Christopher Lee gets, the cooler Christopher Lee gets.”

— Steve Tompkins, “The Voice of Saruman, Speaking the First Age Into Being”

While I’d heard whispers of a new Christopher Lee project on the Official Robert E. Howard Forum,* it was this fine blog entry by Jeff Sypeck on the Quid Plura? site which motivated me to get up off the parliamentary side o’ me arse and compose a blog entry of my own.

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The Ship of Ishtar: A Trifecta of Reviews

Last Tuesday, Ryan Harvey, one of Black Gate’s elite crew of bloggers, reviewed the new editi0n of A. Merritt’s The Ship of Ishtar recently published by Paizo. Saturday night, Morgan Holmes posted his own take on the Paizo edition over at the REHupa blog. Today, James Maliszewski, warlord of Grognardia, weighed in on Merritt’s classic novel as well. Obviously, this phenomenon had reached some sort of critical mass and warranted a look by yours truly.

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Klarkash-Ton and Castle Amber

The Cimmerian was not the only venue celebrating the nativity of  Clark Ashton Smith this thirteenth of January just past. Cool websites such as Grognardia and Cinerati marked the occasion as well. Their tributes differed somewhat from those proffered here in that they noted the influence of Clark Ashton Smith upon the history of fantasy role-playing games. Specifically, they both cited Tom Moldvay’s Castle Amber gaming module as being what led them to Klarkash-Ton.

What is particularly striking about both tributes is that Castle Amber remains the one, single, solitary example of an RPG product that either blogger concerned (or myself) knows about which was largely based upon the works of CAS. Yet, that module appears to have exerted an outsized influence over the years.

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Another 20% Off Sale at Lulu Publishing

I just received a notification email from that they are having another twenty percent off sale through midnight on Monday, January 18th. To get the discount, simply use the coupon code “CABIN” when you get to the checkout.

As with Lulu’s last sale, this can really benefit fans of Robert E. Howard and other fantasy lit. For instance, the new edition of A Gent from Bear Creek is now available from Lulu. Imaro: The Naama War from Charles R. Saunders would also be eligible. For other cool books offered through, see here.

A Valentine From Hell

A while back I read Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. Joe is an important new voice in horror, having won a Bram Stoker award for his short story collection 20th Century Ghosts. This is his first novel, and it is a doozy. The villain is a former CIA interrogator who learned hypnosis and mind control tricks while in Vietnam, and now that he’s dead, he can really get into your head. The action is fast-paced and never lets up, and Slasher fans will appreciate the role the protagonist’s dogs play in this story. If it reads a bit like Stephen King, that is natural, as Joe is Stephen King’s son, and grew up listening to his father’s stories.
See review here.

Saluting the Sorcerer

EDITOR’S NOTE: First published in 1963, “The Sorcerer Departs” was Donald Sidney-Fryer’s magisterial bio-critical essay on the work of poet and fictioneer Clark Ashton Smith. Almost a half-century on, it remains the best. The full 17,000-word version, accompanied by new editorial matter, is currently available in a handsome booklet from Silver Key Press.

On the occasion of the Bard of Auburn’s 117th birthday, and with the permission of Sidney-Fryer himself, The Cimmerian hereby presents a vastly truncated version of that essay to its readers, which we have titled “Saluting the Sorcerer.” It is our hope that the piece stimulates you to seek out Smith’s work — most of which is widely available in various in-print and out-of-print editions — as well as begin to delve into the prodigious poetry and critical writings of Donald Sidney-Fryer.


By Donald Sidney-Fryer

I pass. . . but in this lone and crumbling tower,
Builded against the burrowing seas of chaos,
My volumes and my philtres shall abide:
Poisons more dear than any mithridate,
And spells far sweeter than the speech of love….
Half-shapen dooms shall slumber in my vaults
And in my volume cryptic runes that shall
Outblast the pestilence, outgnaw the worm
When loosed by alien wizards in strange years
Under the blackened moon and paling sun.

In an age dominated by those whom George Sterling once derided as “the brave hunters of fly-specks on Art’s cathedral windows,” the poet Clark Ashton Smith (1893–1961) is sui generis. His Art embodies the thesis put forth by Arthur Machen in his study Hieroglyphics (1902) that “great writing is the result of an ecstatic experience akin to divine revelation.” The first major poet in English to be influenced by Poe, Smith certainly does not belong to any Weird Tales “school” — nor yet does he belong to any Gothic or neo-Gothic tradition except that of his own synthesis and creation. In the words of his own epigram: “The true poet is not created by an epoch; he creates his own epoch.”

Smith was born of Yankee and English parentage on January 13th, 1893, in Long Valley, California, about six miles south of Auburn. In 1902 his parents, Fanny and Timeus Smith, moved to Boulder Ridge, where father and nine-year-old son built a cabin and dug a well. Here Smith lived almost continuously until 1954, and one can easily imagine the effect that the surrounding countryside had on the sensitive and imaginative boy. It was a veritable gar­den of fruit trees, evergreens and park-like areas located on the rolling foot­hills of the Sierras, while arching overhead the nocturnal immensitudes of the heavens were rendered remarkably clear in the clean, smog-free country air.

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The Sword-and-Sorcery Legacy of Clark Ashton Smith

Clark Ashton Smith gets credit for a lot of things, at least by those who are aware of his work. He was arguably the first poet to versify from a truly cosmic viewpoint when he wrote his legendary “The Hashish-Eater.” His poetry and prose, as well as his inimitable drawings, paintings and sculptures, captured the attention and respect of H.P. Lovecraft, who name-checked CAS in his own tales more than any writer, even Dunsany. Smith was a highly valued correspondent of Robert E. Howard. Clark Ashton Smith was admired by (and sometimes mentored) younger authors such as Bradbury, C.L. Moore and Leiber. His tales of Zothique were patent inspirations for later works by Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe.

One thing that Clark Ashton Smith decidedly does not receive much credit for is being one of the founding fathers of the heroic fantasy genre. On this, his one hundred and seventeenth birthday, I’d like to give him his due.

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The Polls Are Almost Closed…

I just learned that the Preditors & Editors Readers Poll for 2009 is almost over. Sponsored by the Critters Writers Workshop, the purpose of the poll is, as the website puts it, to “honor print & electronic publications published during 2009.”

The main aspect of interest for myself about this poll (and I assume it would be to readers of The Cimmerian as well) is its “Fantasy & Science Fiction Short Story published in 2009…” category. Many of the stories and contestants vying for the prize have been drawn from the Rage of the Behemoth collection, which I reviewed last summer.

This contest is packed with Sword-and-Sorcery and heroic fantasy tales. One of them needs to win this thing. Several are truly excellent examples of the Sword-and-Sorcery genre and should be honored accordingly. Make your voices heard. Our favorite style of fiction is on the move and getting stronger every day. The results of this poll should reflect that.

Voting in this poll is ridiculously easy. It took me less than two minutes (after I’d decided on my selection, of course). Plus, as is noted on their “Rules” page (scroll down), there are even some cool prizes for the voters, not just the contestants.

The poll closes at midnight Thursday, January 14. Let’s make sure one of our own is accepting the award.

Hardcover Conan Collection from Easton Press

Easton Press has announced the imminent publication of a hefty collection of Robert E. Howard’s Conan yarns, all in a deluxe, leather-bound format. Easton has been reticent concerning the contents of the book, but judging from the page-count, cover font and the cover illustration, the Easton volume is a high-end reprint of the Prion edition from last year (see below).

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Chant and Empire

This may be known to some of you, but apparently the Howard poem Black Chant Imperial”, which was accepted by Weird Tales in June of 1930, and published that September, was a kind of first draft to another poem, Empire: A Song for All Exiles. The Complete Poetry makes this glaringly apparent by placing the poems back to back on pages 123-5, while inexplicably leaving off the subtitle. And Steve Eng calls the latter a “variant” of the first in his intro (page xlv), while also naming it a “howling ballad in thudding trochees.” Trochees are metric feet in which a stressed syllable alternates with an unstressed one. Wikipedia notes that trochaic form is rarely perfect in English, aside from The Song of Hiawatha, but notes also The Raven as an example.  Howard no doubt was familiar with both.

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