A Shout-out to Missions Unknown and San Antone

Regular readers of The Cimmerian might recall my post about Missions Unknown; the website by, for and of the San Antonio “weird fiction/art” community.  An excellent blog, MU recently celebrated its first anniversary. Paul Vaughan, Sanford Allen, John Picacio and others have done a fine job of making San Antone a hub for imaginative art in all its expressions and forms. San Antonio was REH’s favorite city. I think he’d be proud. Y’all should stop by Missions Unknown now that reading TC won’t be taking up your blogospheric time.

George H. Scithers and Amra

On April 19th, George H. Scithers (pictured above, circa 2001) passed away. On April 20th, Damon Sasser wrote a post for the REHupa blog summarizing Scithers’ accomplishments in the fantasy/sci-fi field. Damon did a fine job and I see no real need to write another eulogy as such. I do, however, want to acknowledge the debt I owe Mr. Scithers. He and Amra, the fanzine he edited, had a profound effect on my reading choices these past thirty years or so.

(Continue reading this post)

Blogger of Mars

While civil rights leaders are justifiably outraged that Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s proclamation declaring April 2010 to be Confederate History Month in the state of Virginia fails to mention slavery, Martian science fiction fans are irked that the proclamation mentions famed General Robert E. Lee but does not mention legendary Captain Jack Carter of Virginia, a courageous Confederate cavalry officer who served the South in the War Between the States and who is better known as John Carter of Mars.

That’s the entry for April 7, 2010, which can be found at the web log, Marooned — Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror books on Mars. Helmed by the mononymous “Paul,” Marooned maintains an admirably Mars-centric focus as the blog post above amply demonstrates. Paul’s breadth of coverage and commentary is as vast as the dusty Martian sea-beds, ranging from suggestions that Rob Zombie should direct a remake of Mars Needs Women to news about the publication by Haffner of Edmond Hamilton’s The Magician of Mars. Of course, Leigh Brackett and ERB get regular shoutouts.

With all kinds of Martian-related fiction seeing print and the production of John Carter of Mars in high gear, Marooned is a much-needed clearing-house for newcomers (and old Martian hands) to check out cool updates on the Red Planet.

Maliszewski’s Grognardia Turns Two

My, how time flies. It seems just the other day that I became aware of Grognardia, the fine site owned and operated by James Maliszewski. Suddenly, I find that Grognardia is celebrating its second anniversary and that the industrious Mr. M has cranked out thirteen hundred and nineteen posts in those seven hundred and thirty-one days. As a fellow bloviator, I can testify such is no mean feat.

As I’ve noted before, Grognardia is not just for those who enjoy old-school RPGs. James’ “Pulp Fantasy Library” series of reviews should be read by any fan of the sub-genre. His most recent review (and one of his best) looks at REH’s own “Dark” Agnes de Chastillon. You can see [redacted]’s comments below the review.

Happy birthday, Grognardia.

More Remembrances of Tompk

The Cimmerian wasn’t the only site that paid tribute to the legacy of Steve Tompkins today.  Not by a long shot.

Damon Sasser had a post up bright and early this morning at his REH: Two-Gun Raconteur site entitled “One Year Gone, One Year Missed.”

Over at Jim & Ruth Keegan’s Two-Gun Blog, the two gave props to Mr. Tompkins in their essay, “Remembering Steve.”

This afternoon, Morgan Holmes reminisced about Tompk in “Corporate Deathburger” at the REHupa blog.

Finally, Mr. Sasser posted a fine wrap-up of the day’s testimonials with “Steve Tompkins: Tribute to a Fallen REHupan” at, fittingly enough, the REHupa blog.

Steve Tompkins was not forgotten.

Beat the Drum Slowly…

Robert E. Howard onced asked his friend, Tevis Clyde Smith, “What shall a man say when a friend has vanished behind the doors of Death? A mere tangle of barren words, only words.”

All of those who posted today, including myself, never met Steve Tompkins personally, though I got damned close in 2006. None of us would presume to say that Steve was our “friend.” However, without a doubt, we all respect his work and regret his absence.  

Are all words spoken in regard to the dearly-departed or much-admired then “barren”? Robert E. Howard seemed to think so when he wrote those lines and sent them to Smith in 1928. Certainly, eulogies and whatnot can never bring back the deceased. All the same, I believe it can be argued that such words keep ones since-passed-on alive in the hearts and minds of those left behind.

In the case of Steve Tompkins, the words he wove with such skill live on here at The Cimmerian and elsewhere. As the tributes below attest, his wit, word-craft and insight are well-remembered. There can be no question that his thoughts on a myriad of subjects have found fertile, not “barren,” ground.

(Continue reading this post)

The Ideal Reader: A Tribute to Steve Tompkins

Friend of The Cimmerian, Scott Oden, wanted to share his thoughts on Steve Tompkins with TC‘s readers. I think they are well worth sharing.
— Deuce Richardson

It has become something of a cliché to say that authors write for an audience of one. Clichéd, but nonetheless true. Most often, this singular audience is the author himself, but some also write for the enjoyment of another, for an individual they hold in esteem: a spouse or loved one, a friend, an old teacher. Sitting metaphorically at the author’s shoulder, this individual becomes their Ideal Reader — a person who, to quote Stephen King’s excellent On Writing, “at various points during the composition of a story, the writer is thinking, ‘I wonder what he/she will think when he/she reads this part?’ ”

Steve Tompkins was my Ideal Reader.

I never got the chance to actually meet Steve, nor were we correspondents. I knew him solely through his dense and erudite essays at The Cimmerian; essays filled with insights and deliciously turned phrases that often forced me to reach for my dictionary. From each one, I gleaned a little something about the kind of man Steve was: passionate, eloquent, and generous in both praise and criticism. The highest laurel I can lay upon his brow is to say that he was a world-class scholar of literature; as a writer in his notice, especially one newly published, that forged in me a desire to bring my best work forward.

I have two moments as a published author that I will never forget. One was hearing that my first novel, Men of Bronze, had earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly; the second was casually clicking the link from my blog to The Cimmerian blog and reading an essay wherein Steve Tompkins recommended my work. It was a heady moment, and I doubt he knew how much his approbation bolstered my self-confidence. I was a writer! And I knew it, by God, because Steve Tompkins said so!

In the end, the Fates decided to cut Steve’s life far too short. It is to my eternal regret that I didn’t take time to send Steve more than a cursory thank-you note; I regret I didn’t express how much I appreciated his kind words, and that his essays were like peripatetic sojourns into the dark heart of the fantastic. I regret I did not write faster, so he could have read The Lion of Cairo.

Most of all, I regret not letting Steve know he was my Ideal Reader.

— Scott Oden

DEUCE ADDS: The blog entries Steve wrote concerning Scott Oden’s novels can be found here and here.

LepreCon 36 is coming…

…and George R.R. Martin is the guest of honor. Details from the official LepreCon 36 website lurk below.

(Continue reading this post)

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.

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.

(Continue reading this post)