Wagner October Reprise


It has been quite a month for fans of Karl Edward Wagner. For days following the dawn of October 13, there were memorial pieces posted all over the Internet, testifying to KEW’s continuing, vibrant legacy. We here at The Cimmerian did our part.

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(Mis)casting Call For a Barbarian (y’all better sit down for this one)



WARNING: The review below has been written in full “snark” mode. It is about four thousand words long. You might want to grab a drink (a strong one) or a sandwich (or both)…


In the past few weeks, there have been persistent rumors of Jared Padelecki, the co-star of the series, Supernatural, being cast as a “young Conan.” This provoked dismay amongst many Conan fans. Personally, I had a “wait and see” attitude about it.

More troubling news was posted on the Official Robert E. Howard Forum recently, thanks to Pete Roncoli. A “casting breakdown,” to be used for casting actors to appear in the projected new Conan movie (set to begin shooting in Bulgaria in February 2010), has been leaked to the Internet. This guideline does more than reveal what a casting director is to look for.  Putting together the clues within it provides a fairly detailed synopsis of the script. Many fans have already done so, and they are on the war-path like blood-mad Picts. Below you’ll find my commentary, accompanied by excerpts from the guideline as posted on Moviehole.net: (Continue reading this post)

Sword-and-Sorcery in Alter Ego #92


Courtesy of Bill Thom’s Coming Attractions website…

ALTER EGO #92 presents Sword-and-Sorcery in the Comics, Part 3! – Coming in March 2010! (Continue reading this post)

Upcoming Howardian Celebrations in the Lone Star State


Over on the Official Robert E. Howard Forum, Paul Herman just passed along the news of an REH Halloween party being held on October 30th in Austin, Texas. Spearheaded by Dennis McHaney and the Texas Friends of REH (TFOREH), this beer-haunted gala will be convened at the Dog and Duck Pub, generally considered the finest establishment of its type in the Austin area.


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More Elegies in Honor of KEW


Over on the REHupa blog, Morgan Holmes has written a fine essay about Karl Edward Wagner. Returning the serve, Scott Oden, author of the upcoming Lion of Cairo, has posted this in remembrance of the Man From Knoxville and his most famous creation, Kane, on his “Echoes of Forgotten Ages” blog. In addition, fantasy author, David J. West, reports an interesting KEW-related dream over on his blog. (Continue reading this post)

Bridge Abridged?


Recently I found a book called Adventure, after the venerable pulp magazine. It had a story by our own [redacted], called “Bridge of Teeth”, which was billed as a Howardian cross of weird fiction and boxing together. I wanted to like it, but it seemed like an editor had hacked at it with a maniacal glee leaving various parts of the story in shreds — with an ending mentioning a character named Tlaloc who just appears out of nowhere. I’m not sure what happened here but I was hoping for something more coherent. Maybe Mark can fill us in.

Another Cimmerian Contributor Goes West


Don Herron reports that legendary fan/scholar Ben P. Indick has died:

The Mighty Inbendick has fallen.

In the REH context, long before you and other new guys came along to conspire with in boosting Howard’s name, Ben was a major wingman in whatever plans I made, the experienced fan writer — or longtime independent scholar — covering the flanks for me, the new guy. I am pretty sure I first encountered Ben when I joined REHupa with mailing eleven in 1974, and he immediately joined me when I bailed out of the dismal REHupa of that day to start The Hyperborian League. And from there we plotted the book that emerged in 1984 as The Dark Barbarian, with Ben handling the job of surveying Howard’s westerns. He did quite a few other nods to REH as well — unlike many of the so-called scholars today who seem to want applause for even acknowledging Howard’s existence, Ben was treating him with respect alongside Lovecraft, Tolkien, Bradbury and others all along. His prolific record is in print for anyone to check.

Indeed. Ben contributed a nice article about L. Sprague de Camp and Conan, “The Would-Be Cimmerian” to TC V4n1, wherein he revealed that de Camp had once traded him the carbon for REH’s “Wolves Beyond the Border” for some Arkham volume de Camp wanted. He was in REHupa when I was five years old, and of course had a long history in fandom before that. One of my favorite Mighty Inbendick appearances is the polite, I’m-too-busy-to-answer letter that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote regarding Ben’s “long and interesting letter and comments” in 1966 — that bit appears in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, page 366.

His presence in the field stretched back almost to the very beginning, and by the end he had made it all the way to age 86 in relative style, engaged in his passions until the end. A proud member of First-and-a-Half Fandom, he was active in the arena since the 1940s. His books included The Drama of Ray Bradbury, A Gentleman from Providence Pens a Letter and From Entropy to Budayeen, concerning the works of the late George Alec Effinger. Ben contributed essays to every critical anthology edited by Darrell Schweitzer through 2006 and, as mentioned above, notably provided his longtime friend Don Herron with “The Western Fiction of Robert E. Howard” for the landmark collection of Robert E. Howard criticism The Dark Barbarian in 1984. In later years he took great pleasure from his son Michael Korie’s career, the younger Indick having become a celebrated, Tony-nominated Broadway lyricist.

We thus add a red nail in his name to the grim Cimmerian totem of honor, alongside other fallen contributors Leon Nielsen, Bob Baker, Jay Corrinet and Steve Tompkins. I’ll leave you with a reminiscence Don Herron wrote for his good friend on the occasion of his eighty-sixth birthday last month:

I first encountered my longtime pal Inbendick in REHupa, the amateur press association devoted to Robert E. Howard, when I joined in 1974, if the thirty-five years we’ve spent as pals since then constitutes longtime. Ben and I have been involved in so many projects together — Fear Itself and other books on Stephen King, The Dark Barbarian, and on and on — that just listing the titles would fill a page, maybe two pages. Maybe three. Best of all, during those years I have gotten to hang out with the man himself, first when he and Janet visited San Francisco and went on the Dashiell Hammett Tour in the early days, and also several times when I blew through New York. I remember one time in the early ’90s when Ben and I were kicking around the Big Town and he mentioned how much he loved the Brooklyn Bridge, which I told him I had walked across the day before. Ben said he’d never walked across the bridge! New Yorkers always amaze me, but we cleared that one up fast by hiking across the Brooklyn Bridge right then, me for the second time and Ben for the first. And one day he showed me all over midtown, walking my famous walking feet almost off — as it happened, that exploration coincided with the first Cow Parade in New York, so as a bonus we got into hunting down all the crazy art cows we could find, at least 80 out of the 300 or so set up all over the city — dashing out to a median divider we found the cow painted up by Peter Max! Yeah, just standing there in the middle of the bustling street. Good times, all, with a guy I certainly consider one of my best friends ever.

Happy birthday, boss!

And now, rest in peace. Ben Indick — 1923-2009.

REH-Related News From Coming Attractions


Courtesy of the indefatigable Bill Thom over on the Coming Attractions website…


GRYPHON BOOKS Collectable Paperback Show

New York City Collectible Paperback & Pulp Fiction Expo #21, the big 2009 show will be held on

Sunday, October 4, 2009, at the Holiday Inn on 57th Street in NYC.

A limited number of 6′ and 8′ tables available but book tables asap.

Call Gary at 718-646-6126 after 5pm EST

Confirmed guest authors and artists include:

ELAINE DUILLO, famous cover artist.

LINTON BALDWIN, Lion Books crime author.

ANNETTE & MARTIN MEYERS, mystery author couple who also write as Maan Meyers.

SANDY KOSSIN, classic vintage paperback cover artist.

JACK KETCHUM, horror and fantasy author.

C.J. HENDERSON, crime, fantasy and SF author.

MARVIN KAYE, fantasy author and Sherlockian anthologist.

PETER STRAUB, masterful horror and fantasy author.

MORRIS HERSHMAN, Manhunt author and soft-core author as Arnold English.

RON GOULART, master storyteller, SF writer, pulp and comic book scholar, more.

KEN WISHNIA, hard crime mystery author.

MARCUS BOAS, fabulous fantasy artist.

ANN BANNON, Famous Gold Medal author of lesbian pulp novels.

MARIJANE MEAKER, (aka Vin Packer, Ann Aldrich), tentative to appear

RHODA PLOTKIN, wife of famed cover artist Barney Plotkin,

STAN TRYBULSKI, crime author.

Several of the projected attendees slated for the Expo above have Howardian connections. Not least among them is Gary Lovisi, publisher of Gryphon Books and organizer of the event. Lovisi is a devotee of REH and has worked with former REHupan and Friend of The Cimmerian, James Reasoner. He has also published Richard A. Lupoff’s Barsoom, a thoughtful look at Edgar Rice Burroughs’ seminal science-fantasy creation.

Elaine Duillo, by all accounts, is a fascinating and talented woman. She broke into the field of paperback cover-art when it was absolutely dominated by male painters. She also happens to be the wife of John Duillo, who was the “Other Conan Artist” for the Lancer editions.

I don’t know of any direct linkage to the Man From Cross Plains when it comes to Jack Ketchum. He is a damned good horror author and seems to get mentioned in the general vicinity of REH (google-wise) on a fairly regular basis. Birds of a feather, perhaps. He might have revealed a liking for Howard in Book of Souls, but I know not one way or another. Someone oughtta ask the man straight out, since he was obliging enough to make himself a static target for one day in this year’s lonesome October.

Author C.J. Henderson is a long-time admirer of Two-Gun Bob. His “Teddy London” tales (the newest novel concerning which is imminent) owe a debt to Steve Harrison (as well as Conrad and Kirowan), in my opinion. Henderson also, allegedly, has a sword-and-sorcery novel in the works.

Marvin Kaye, as an editor, has chosen Robert E. Howard yarns for publication in the past. His own oeuvre is centered primarily in the realms of horror and fantasy (with a sideline in Doyle, one of Howard’s favorite authors). Another guy to button-hole at the Expo regarding his thoughts on REH.

I’ve covered Peter Straub’s contribution to forcing Robert E. Howard down the gullet of the literary establishment elsewhere. Somebody needs to walk up and shake his hand (or buy him a beer).

Writer Ron Goulart is fairly notorious for his put-downs of Robert E.Howard, and rightly so. Still, I’ve enjoyed his “Star Hawks” and “Gypsy” stories.

Marcus Boas is an unabashed fan of REH. He rendered paintings for several Donald M. Grant volumes dedicated to Howard’s fiction.

Honestly, considering how little I’ve heard about this exposition up ’til now, Gary Lovisi has put together a surprisingly strong line-up of guests, especially if one is a mystery/hard-boiled fiction fan. I would definitely consider attending if I lived twelve hundred miles closer.

Wait. There’s more…


Centipede Press – Coming soon!
In the works from Centipede Press is a retrospective about the writers from WEIRD TALES, called CONVERSATIONS WITH THE WEIRD TALES CIRCLE, which is a massive 600-page book about the writers from that era: H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Frank Belknap Long, Fritz Leiber, Ray Bradbury, Bloch, Munn, Derleth, Seabury Quinn, Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore, tons of other people. There are all new portraits of the writers, interviews with them, essays by and about them, tons of photographs, letters, postcards, WEIRD TALES covers and histories about the artists, all sorts of goodies.

I have yet to purchase a book from Centipede Press, but this certainly sounds promising. Robert E. Howard did not write in a vacuum. Neither did Lovecraft nor Clark Ashton Smith. All influenced each other and all three were influenced to one extent or another by contemporaries like Quinn, Derleth and Moore. There was a free-wheeling give-and-take which characterized the best fiction produced during the first fifteen years of Weird Tales’ existence. It grew out of admiration and competition between the magazine’s contributors. They read each others’ work, took what they liked and then tried to top it. The influence of the “Dark Trinity” of Weird Tales upon subsequent generations of writers is, of course, legion.

It would appear that Centipede Press is attempting to chronicle and illuminate that peculiar time and place (and the fascinating talents that made it so special) in a very thorough fashion. That’s a tall order. If they pull it off, I definitely look forward to reading Conversations With the Weird Tales Circle.

A Review of REH: Two-Gun Raconteur #13

My copy of REH: Two-Gun Raconteur #13 came in the post on the same day that a long-awaited guest arrived. Due to previously scheduled essays, I’m only now getting around to singing this issue’s praises. Morgan Holmes has already weighed in on the REHupa site, but I hope that this review will complement his.

I must admit that I never read the earlier issues of “TGR” when they were published back in the 1970s. I was but a wee lad back then. However, I have perused the “Out of Print” section on Damon C. Sasser’s website. REH: Two-Gun Raconteur has always been a worthy publication, mixing real Howardian scholarship, quality art and fannish fun. That was definitely my impression when I bought the first “relaunch” issue in 2003.

REH: Two-Gun Raconteur #13 greets you with a full-color cover depicting Kull and Brule whaling away at serpent-men. Sasser went with color covers (one of the advancements of civilization we can all be thankful for) a while back. That move got my unequivocal support at the time, and this cover changes that opinion not one whit.


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A Howardian Fourth


Happy Fourth of July to all of the loyal Cimmerian readers out there. Here’s hoping there’s a lot of parades and BBQs for you to indulge in, along with perhaps a visit to a military gravesite or cemetery. I’ll be checking in on and paying my respects to Admiral John Ford, my all-time favorite movie director (whose current residence, the magnificent Holy Cross Cemetery, is just down the street from where I live), before hoofing it over to the home of another veteran of World War II, Rah Hoffman, for some patriotic food and fun with him and Donald Sidney-Fryer.

To satisfy your Howard craving for the day, you can read my Fourth of July post from last year to learn about what Howard thought of this particular holiday. And in case that’s too much of a downer, I’m including a brighter note below, specifically a perceptive blast from the past in the form of a review of Howard’s first hardcover collection in the States, 1946’s Skull-Face and Others.

With John Haefele’s wonderful essay on this same book (from TC V3n9) snagging a Hyrkanian Award at this year’s Cimmerian Awards, it’s a good time to look back on a commentary about REH written way back before there was the large amount of criticism, correspondence, and other material available to sway readers. The reviewer in question, British fan Arthur Hillman, had to rely simply on what had appeared in Weird Tales and elsewhere during those years, and he proves himself more than up to the task, making more profound points about our favorite Texan in a few short paragraphs than most others do in a lifetime.


This review appeared in the premier issue of Fantasy Review, a British semi-pro fan magazine that began publication soon after World War II had ended, when after a lengthy drought British fans were finally able to reconnect with their American counterparts. Listen:

Book Reviews
A Howard Anthology
SKULL FACE AND OTHERS, by Robert E. Howard
Arkham House, Sauk City. $5.00
Reviewed by Arthur F. Hillman

Among the many stories contained in this long-awaited and much-heralded volume are some of the gems from the brilliant crown of the late Robert Ervin Howard, who needs no introduction to readers of weird fantasy. Such tales as “The Scarlet Citadel,” “Worms of the Earth,” and “The Shadow Kingdom” have the inspirational spark that breathed life and fire into the puppets and panoramas of the gifted Texan. In these, and others, his splendid vigour of expression are self-evident.

The addition to this collection of powerful stories of the “The Hyborian Age” (the imaginary historical framework around which many of his tales were set), and of “A Man-eating Jeopard,” that delightful character study of his own locale and upbringing, was also a happy choice. But what strikes a true Howard follower with something of a jarring note is the scarcity of “Conan” tales; those swashbuckling exploits of the Cimmerian adventurer whose savage resource and ruthless energy are a secret delight to our atavistic instincts.

Out of the 14 stories which appeared originally in Weird Tales, only five have been selected for this anthology by the productive Mr. Derleth. But he, probably conscious of the number of admirers of Conan the Barbarian, seems to have prepared his defence in advance of this criticism. His argument is that too many of Conan’s exploits, taken together, would sicken the reader with the total butchery and carnage involved.

To me this is sheer sophistry; the same excuse for a similar neglect might be applied equally to some of his other excellent volumes. One might as well say that too many of Lovecraft’s tales, taken together, would make his horrors small beer; that too much of Clark Ashton Smith’s exotic outpourings would bring on literary indigestion. But one does not drink a whole bottle of brandy without pause, and fantasy of a particular type should never be read in large quantities at one sitting. Such tales, delicate pieces of craftsmanship as they are, should be sampled sparingly, at a time and place specially suitable. This is only right and proper, as a reciprocal arrangement with the author who has lavished such care and attention on his work for your benefit.

Thus, with true discrimination, a reader could enjoy a whole bookful of Conan tales; and the present volume must be considered woefully inadequate in this respect. The two long stories, “Red Nails” and “The People of the Black Circle,” which are among the finest in the series, are both missing; instead we have “Skull Face,” which is very Sax Rhomerish and inferior to these two. For Howard’s imagination was soaring on stronger pinions as the years passed, and his earlier tales do not, in my opinion, compare with the promising epics he produced before his untimely death cut short his career.

Nonetheless, all true followers of Howard should get this book. But they should also insist that Mr. Derleth make expiation for his sins of omission and produce a second volume of stories of this natural-born writer, whose untamed genius puts to shame many of the stars in the literary firmament of today.

Don’t know about you, but I think that’s a stellar review, comparable with the short, somewhat contemporary piece written by Paul Spencer (and reprinted in our modern era in The Barbaric Triumph). And note that even in 1947 people were calling Howard’s most famous character Conan the Barbarian, not the “Conan the Cimmerian” championed by purists in our era. It seems that Hillman needed neither the comics of the 1970s nor the Gnome Press hardcover of the 1950s to prompt him to use that particular phrase.

I found the editorial of the first issue of Fantasy Review interesting for what it tells us about being a fan in those years, specifically how difficult it was to know what was even available. The editor was Walter Gillings, who was a central force in British fandom from the early ’30s until his death from heart attack in July, 1979. Gillings had a rough time in the war, as he was a conscientious objector and was fired from his job over his pacifist stance. But during those early years he founded Britain’s first fan group and edited a slew of important publications, and by the early ’50s more than a few people considered Fantasy Reviewthe most outstanding fanmag of all time.” Fantasy Review ran from 1947-1950, eighteen issues in total. But Gillings’ editorial in the first one is what struck me all these years later, filled as it is with talk of the War and the difficulties levied on fans of science fiction and the fantastic.


If your experience of science-fantasy goes back to the days when a magazine devoted to it was a rare discovery, you will probably remember Scientification — The British Fantasy Review. That there were in these islands at that time enough fantasy readers to justify a journal catering for their interests was a significant factor in the developments which followed. It was not long before the first British science fiction magazine, Tales of Wonder, appeared. Hard on its heels came Fantasy; and had it not been for the war, which separated most British readers from the American magazines as well, there is little doubt that the medium would by now have established itself firmly in the field of popular literature.

But the war did not stop the continued evolution of fantasy fiction in America, whence to a fortunate few have come evidences of a change for the better in the method of its presentation — not so much in magazines as in the more permanent form of books. This elevation of fantasy to a more distinguished sphere has brought an intense activity in the reading and collecting of volumes of both science and weird fiction, a trend which has had repercussions among well-informed readers on this side of the Atlantic.

With the return to peace and the effects of war-time influences on reading tastes, there is ample indication of a desire on the part of publishers on both sides to meet the increasing demand for fantasy. New magazines; new books; new publishing concerns specialising in the medium. The fantasy fan has no cause for complaint, now — except, perhaps, that there is nothing to keep him up to date with all the information he needs to pursue his fascinating hobby.

Hence FANTASY REVIEW. which has been revived under its new title to cover the entire field of fantasy fiction and its allied interests, to reflect its growing popularity here and abroad, and to serve the discriminating reader and collector. To fulfil this function, we have recruited experts in every branch of the medium to serve its readers, and we shall keep its columns open to all who wish to express their views on any aspect of the literature in which they delight. It is the journal of the fantasy reader — produced by fantasy readers. As such it should make a valuable contribution to the further development of the medium; and as a source of reliable information and guidance, it should be indispensable to all who are interested in any of its ramifications.


Too often we fail to comprehend the long and honorable legacy of the legions of fans who have come before us, and seldom to we stop to appreciate all of the hard work they put into popularizing the authors we revere, keeping their names and work in play through decades of neglect, until finally the stars aligned and a resurgence occurred. So on this day of remembrance and celebration, take a moment to offer silent thanks to the memories of men like Gillings and Hillman. If they hadn’t carried the torch through the greatest and most savage war the world had ever known, Howard and his fans would be much poorer for it.

AND ONE LAST LINK: Friend of The Cimmerian John J. Miller posted an amusing link over at The National Review that will elicit a chuckle from Cimmerian readers for sure. (for an encore, John should screen the hysterical Late Bloomer during the next NR cruise). And for those of you who are fans of Robert Heinlein, John’s got a great piece on the author’s centenary in the latest print edition of TNR, along with some thoughts on conservative sci-fi in general.

Steve adds: For this somewhat impure purist, Hillman’s use of “Conan the Barbarian” was rendered more palatable by his preceding reference to “the Cimmerian adventurer.” I like the notion of Howard’s later imagination “soaring on stronger pinions,” and it certainly behooves someone named Hillman to complain about the Derlethian snubbing of “The People of the Black Circle.” He might be unduly confident that no one drinks “a whole bottle of brandy without pause,” though.

A shame that Fantasy Review shut down in 1950; had they been able to stick it out until 1954 and 1955, they would have been well situated to comment on the single most gobsmacking postwar instance of the “elevation of fantasy to a more distinguished sphere.”