Frazetta: The Definitive Reference

Since the late ’60s, Howard and Conan fans have praised and supported Frank Frazetta and his sterling work, and this new century is no different. In May of 2006 The Cimmerian printed a symposium on the fortieth anniversary of the classic Lancer Conan the Adventurer, which included a fascinating article on Frazetta and his legendary efforts to do artistic justice to the prose of Robert E. Howard, written by artist and scholar Anthony Avacato. Now longtime Cimmerian reader Andrew Steven has tipped me off to a new Frazetta book that he’s involved with, one that Howard and Conan fans of all stripes will want to check out.

Frazetta: The Definitive Reference is billed as the most complete summation of the fantasy master’s work ever put into print. It contains a listing for every published piece of Frazetta art, along with essays by notable Frazetta scholars, and the whole works is supplemented by over eight-hundred illustrations (four hundred in full color). The volume is set to debut in August 2008 in three separate editions: softcover ($29.99), hardcover ($39.99), and deluxe hardcover in slipcase ($59.99). You can get the standard discounts by shopping through Amazon and other mass market outlets (but you are flipping a coin as to whether you’ll get the book in acceptable condition).

Congratulations to Andrew for helping make this book as complete and accurate as can be. It’s always nice to have hardcore Howardists contributing to such things and ensuring that REH gets properly represented.

A new Howardian website debuts

Cimmerian reader Zack Esser has created a new website dedicated to all things Howard and fantasy. It’s called BorderKingdom, and it promises to be, among much else, a prime showcase for Hyborian Age art. He has a blog that will regularly publish new artwork and essays, and a gallery titled Images of Hyboria. Head over and give it a look.

John Carter of Earth


Any given year is a demonstration of mortality in action, but so far 2008 has been especially hellbent on inaugurating the afterlives of figures who had permanent luxury suites in the Tompkinsian pantheon: George MacDonald Fraser, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Fagles, and now Charlton Heston.

No sooner was I surfing the first wave of obituaries and career summaries than I was muttering and cursing. Everything else Heston did was being reduced to flotsam bobbing atop each half of the parted Red Sea, or dust beneath Judah Ben-Hur’s chariot wheels. It’s difficult to be objective about those movies because they became the Easter season equivalent of the Yule log, always on the TV screen in the background. When I try to watch either, it isn’t long before I wish someone had spiked the holy water. Oh, Ben-Hur retains some interest because of the involvement of Gore Vidal, Yakima Canutt, and a young assistant director named Sergio Leone, and the early scenes at the Egyptian court in The Ten Commandments are entertaining, mostly because of Yul Brynner’s seething Ramses (had he not gotten all that emoting out of his system, would he ever have been able to play the robot gunfighter in Westworld?) But I prefer Heston’s mid-career parts, when cracks in the Michelangelo-sculpted marble and verdigris on the gleaming bronze began to be detectable, so I was glad to find Manohla Dargis’ “The Man Who Touched Evil and Saved the World” in the New York Times: “My fondness for Mr. Heston can be traced back to the films I saw growing up, most important, his great dystopian trilogy, Planet of the Apes (1968), The Omega Man (1971), and Soylent Green (1973).” Had Ms. Dargis bethought her of how Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) ends, she might have reconsidered the second half of her tribute’s title, but I’m with her on the Dominus of Dystopia; whenever I read Howard’s “The Last Laugh” (an overheated discussion of which concludes an essay printed in TC V5n1), despite the probable Conanomorphism of the protagonist’s appearance, I imagine Charlton Heston, the last word in last stands and the first choice for the day after the end of the world.

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Little Lost, and Much Gained, In Translation


Arma virumque cano…Robert Fagles, who unleashed what some of us consider the supremely Howardian gifts of intensity and immediacy on The Iliad (1990), The Odyssey (1996), and The Aeneid (2006), died this week. Died, save for the imperishable legacy that yet lives and will keep right on flying out of bookstores like the winged monkeys in The Wizard of Oz (er, that is, if they were noble and tragic).

The classicist Oliver Taplin wrote of the Fagles Iliad that “his narrative has real pace, it presses onward, leading the reader forward with an irresistible flow.” The speed of a cheetah, the spring of a leopard, the strength of a tiger, all in one translator/poet package. A fellow member of the Princeton faculty, Paul Muldoon, remembers Fagles as “a quiet man, diligent and decorous, yet one who was unexpectedly equal to the swagger and savagery of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in a way no one had managed before him. It was as if two key texts of Western literature had been adapted by a director of Westerns like Leone or Peckinpah.” That, O Prince, is high praise indeed.

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World Fantasy Award Judges Announced


And they are: Peter Coleborn, Robert Hoge, Dennis L. McKiernan, Mark Morris, and Steve Pasechnick.

Full details here.

If you attended or supported the 2006 Austin Convention, this is the last year you are eligible to vote under that membership. You’ll either receive a ballot in the mail, or else you can email your choices to Rodger Turner. Granted, the chances of anything about REH winning are nil — it was McKiernan, after all, who sat on the REH panel in 2006 with David Drake, where the two of them blackjacked REH as a “parochial” and “pedestrian” writer, a mere “child’s author” (thankfully, as described in TC V3n11, the other two panelists were [redacted] and Howard Andrew Jones, who rose to the occassion.) But getting nominated is its own reward.

You can nominate up to five people in each category, and one caveat is that while you don’t have to nominate for every category, you at least have to do so for more than one. Another is that you can only nominate living persons (so no votes for REH himself, alas.)

Let’s once again get out the vote for Howard fandom. Leo Grin for The Cimmerian will be running in the Special Award — Non Professional category if you are so inclined, and other possibilities I can think of include:

Life Achievement — Glenn Lord for fifty years of Robert E. Howard research, scholarship, and editing.
Artist — Jim and Ruth Keegan for their work illustrating 2007’s Best of Robert E. Howard volumes from Del Rey.
Special Award Professional — Rusty Burke, for editing Del Rey’s 2007 Best of Robert E. Howard volumes.
(part of the nominating process includes mailing samples of your work to the judges, so let’s hope Jim and Rusty get on the stick and do that for themselves.)

So take a few minutes to email Rodger Turner your ballot, and do your part to ensure that REH is well-represented at the fantasy field’s premier awards show. Voting deadline is June 8.

“Very strange looking fish….”


If only H. P. Lovecraft were alive to see this, it could have given him enough story plots to last a lifetime:

Mysterious Creatures Found in Antarctica

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) — Scientists investigating the icy waters of Antarctica said Tuesday they have collected mysterious creatures including giant sea spiders and huge worms in the murky depths.

Australian experts taking part in an international program to take a census of marine life in the ocean at the far south of the world collected specimens from up to 6,500 feet beneath the surface, and said many may never have been seen before.

Some of the animals far under the sea grow to unusually large sizes, a phenomenon called gigantism that scientists still do not fully understand.

“Gigantism is very common in Antarctic waters,” Martin Riddle, the Australian Antarctic Division scientist who led the expedition, said in a statement. “We have collected huge worms, giant crustaceans and sea spiders the size of dinner plates.”

The specimens were being sent to universities and museums around the world for identification, tissue sampling and DNA studies.

“Not all of the creatures that we found could be identified and it is very likely that some new species will be recorded as a result of these voyages,” said Graham Hosie, head of the census project.

The expedition is part of an ambitious international effort to map life forms in the Antarctic Ocean, also known as the Southern Ocean, and to study the impact of forces such as climate change on the undersea environment.

Three ships — Aurora Australis from Australia, France’s L’Astrolabe and Japan’s Umitaka Maru — returned recently from two months in the region as part of the Collaborative East Antarctic Marine Census. The work is part of a larger project to map the biodiversity of the world’s oceans.

The French and Japanese ships sought specimens from the mid- and upper-level environment, while the Australian ship plumbed deeper waters with remote-controlled cameras.

“In some places every inch of the sea floor is covered in life,” Riddle said. “In other places we can see deep scars and gouges where icebergs scour the sea floor as they pass by.”

Among the bizarre-looking creatures the scientists spotted were tunicates, plankton-eating animals that resemble slender glass structures up to a yard tall “standing in fields like poppies,” Riddle said.

Other animals were equally baffling.

“They had fins in various places, they had funny dangly bits around their mouths,” Riddle told reporters. “They were all bottom dwellers so they were all evolved in different ways to live down on the sea bed in the dark. So many of them had very large eyes — very strange looking fish.”

Scientists are planning a follow-up expedition in 10 to 15 years to examine the effects of climate changes on the region’s environment.

No word on whether any of the scientists have developed the Innsmouth Look. Incidentally, I love how they sneak in “the Antarctic Ocean, also known as the Southern Ocean” for those readers who slept through geography (or who are running for president.)

The Complete (er, Selected) Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard

For those who haven’t heard, the Random House website (and Amazon) are both listing this as being released on October 28, 2008. The book is set to have 400 pages and sell for a retail price of $18. No word on whether it will be illustrated and/or by whom, or what the final contents will be.

UPDATE: Horror Stories editor Rusty Burke writes in to correct the Random House website: “Want to nip a potential problem in the bud. Don’t know why the Random House site has complete horror stories listed, because from day one my title for the book has been The Mad Immensities of Night: Selected Horror Stories and Verse by Robert E. Howard. The book probably includes at least three-quarters of REH’s horror fiction, but does not include *everything* and I would not want someone to buy it thinking it does. As it stands, we have just over 500 pages of REH content alone, so it’s a big book, like the Best Ofs. I’ve written to my editor at Del Rey to see about getting the title on the webpage (which was probably just a “filler”) corrected.”

AND FOR THE RECORD: Conan the Phenomenon (p. 139) calls this book simply Robert E. Howard’s Horror Stories — no Complete, but no Selected either. Phenomenon also says that Greg Staples is set to illustrate it (an English comic book artist who also has done some concept art for the forthcoming Solomon Kane film).

Birthday Toasts


So I was digging through my Howardian archives on REH’s 102nd birthday, reading yellowed manuscripts, delicately handling crumbling photographs, when I came across a famous portrait of the Texan. “Valka!” I gasped to myself, “What a fitting image on which to dwell during this august anniversary!” Properly impressed, I thrice bowed reverently in the direction of Cross Plains, as is my wont whenever Howard’s shade looms before me so magnificently.

Later, I remembered that it was also the birthday of one of Howard’s greatest champions, the writer and critic Don Herron. Possessing a large cache of rare and precious Herronian memorabilia — don’t you? — I began sifting through that chest of immemorial treasures, when lo and behold I came across a familiar likeness, glimpsed through a glass darkly:


Murmuring appropriate benedictions, I turned northward and thrice inclined towards San Jose, where the spirit of the Bard of Cross Plains holds festival by night with the Lord of the Hammett Tour, and Schlitz ever pours in an icy froth from monstrous schooners built to fit nothing less than the gnarled hands of frost-giants.

Happy birthday, Bob and Don.

Echoes of Cimmeria available for pre-order


Cimmerian reader Fabrice Tortey hails from France, and for the last few years he’s been working steadily on a massive tribute volume to Robert E. Howard. That project is now reaching fruition. Bringing together a generous mix of Howardian luminaries from both sides of the pond, he has assembled a wide-ranging collection of material and added lots of pictures and illustrations. American stalwarts Glenn Lord, Don Herron, Rusty Burke, and others appear alongside French counterparts such as Jacques Bergier, along with other assorted folks such as the inimitable Donald Sidney-Fryer, a scholar facile in both languages. Of course Robert E. Howard himself is represented, and some of those items have never before appeared in that language. The book itself is all in French, but the result is nevertheless bound to entice many collectors from this side of the pond, too.

You can download the official order form here in PDF format (400k file). Note that you can become a “subscriber” by pre-ordering before March 31, 2008. This gets you a numbered copy of the book, along with your name listed on a special page inside the volume.

For those of us wanting to read some of this material in English, take heart: The Cimmerian is on the case.


1906 – 1936
A book edited by Fabrice Tortey

Solomon Kane, El Borak, Bran Mak Morn, Kull the Barbarian King, Conan the Cimmerian and many other characters, all unforgettable creations that sprang from the fertile mind of Robert Ervin Howard. A pioneer of heroic fantasy, the Texan writer has excelled in many genres: tales of adventure, fantasy and horror, sports and western stories, poetry… At the time when Two-Gun Bob finds a second life in France, the Éditions de l’Œil du Sphinx are pleased to pay homage to Robert E. Howard and display his many facets as the man, the boxer, the storyteller, the poet.

Renowned specialists and dedicated fans of Howard have all gathered to explore the epic universe of the Cross Plains Bard. This opus, under the direction of Fabrice Tortey, opens on an overview of Robert E. Howard’s life, completed by more specific biographical studies by acknowledged experts such as Rusty Burke with La dernière lettre / The Note, Glenn Lord with Herbert Klatt : le quatrième mousquetaire / Herbert Klatt : the Fourth Musketeer and The Junto, or Chris Gruber who shares with us his passion both for boxing and the creator of Steve Costigan in Howard et la fabrique de glace / Howard at the Ice House

Four texts of Robert E. Howard are published here for the first time in France: two fragments (Le Tueur / The Slayer; Sous l’éclat impitoyable du soleil… / Beneath the Glare… ) and two poems (Les Cellules du Colisée / The Cells of the Coliseum et Comme un bruit sourd à ma porte / A Dull Sound as of Knocking). Introduced by Don Herron, a series of essays analyzes different aspects of the Texan’s opus : Le Sens du récit chez Robert E. Howard / The Narrative Sense of Robert E. Howard by Simon Sanahujas, Bob Howard ou le pouvoir du regard intérieur / Bob Howard or the power of the inner look by Argentium Thri’ile, Robert E. Howard : pionnier des lettres/Robert E. Howard: Frontiersman of Letters by Donald Sidney-Fryer, Conan, Kull et Bran Mak Morn : les rois de la nuit / Conan, Kull et Bran Mak Morn: the Kings of the Night by Patrice Louinet, Kings of the Night : Une allégorie shakespearienne ? / Kings of the Night : a Shakespearean allegory? by Pierre Favier, Le Phénix sur l’épée et autres fulgurances. Une lecture spirituelle du cycle hyborien de Robert E. Howard / The Phoenix on the Sword and other blinding flashes. A spiritual reading of Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian cycle by Rodolphe Massé, Solomon Kane and Face à Cthulhu : le club des aventuriers de Robert E. Howard / Facing Chthulu : the Adventurer’s Club by Patrice Allart, Solomon Kane et le racisme : une étude en noir et blanc / Solomon Kane and racism : a study in black and white by Olivier Legrand, Des rites impies de sadisme et de sang. Le réveil de l’archaïque chez Howard, Lovecraft et Vere Shortt / An unhallowed ritual of cruelty and sadism and blood: The revival of the archaic in Howard, Lovecraft and Vere Shortt by Michel Meurger, Un nouveau monde, ou l’Almuric de Robert E. Howard / A New World, or the Almuric of Robert E. Howard by Rémy Lechevalier and Jacques Bergier, ou l’homme qui découvrit aussi Robert E. Howard / Jacques Bergier, or The Man Who Also Discovered Robert E. Howard by Joseph Altairac.This thick volume is concluded with a bibliography of Howard’s works published in France, compiled by Simon Sanahujas. Many photographs of Bob Howard, his family and friends, open for us a vista of a past cut short all too soon.

This anthology also contains the works of Howard’s main illustrators in France : foremost is Christian Broutin, with his drawings for “Phoenix on the Sword” in Planète magazine, then Philippe Druillet who illustrated Conan for Édition spéciale, and of course Jean-Michel Nicollet whose covers for Titres SF and the Nouvelles Éditions Oswald have been the French readers’ companions in their discovery of Two-Gun Bob. The cover is by the great american illustrator Frank Frazetta.

Softcover, 22.5 x 17 cm, text in French, about 400 pages


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The End of an Era

Cimmerian reader Jack Jones writes in with the following note:

Have you tried the Wandering Star link listed on your website recently? If not, you might take a look see. Things have certainly changed…

And how. All the predictions made years ago by naysayers like Don Herron and Big Jim Charles have come to pass. I have removed the Wandering Star link from my sidebar. Here ye, hear ye — the King is Dead! Long live Subterranean Press and Del Rey!

UPDATE: For nostalgia purposes, Cimmerian contributor Dave Hardy points out that the old version of the Wandering Star website (which hasn’t been updated in three years) can still be accessed at their old domain,