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.

Blue Tyson’s Leigh Brackett (ology) Blog

Just a few short weeks after Leigh Brackett’s birthday last year, Blue Tyson fired up the finest (and, so far, only) blog/website dedicated to the Queen of Space Opera. Tyson is an indefatigable Aussie sci-fi/fantasy fan whose archival work in his favorite fields of literature became known to yours truly a few years back. This was due to several interesting posts he put up at The Official Robert E. Howard Forum. One was an exhaustive listing of Sword-and-Sorcery heroes; another was a link to Tyson’s cover gallery devoted to the fiction of Leigh Brackett. Now that he’s had a few months to work on his project, I say that Tyson can take a bow and let the Interwebs behold the proud monument he has constructed in honor of Brackett on this, the anniversary of her mortality.

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Red Planet, Wet Planet



“I knew it!” Leigh shouted, punching her fist into the air. “I told you sons of… sons what it would be like years ago!”

A rebel yell cut loose, and suddenly the room was a babble of voices.

— Leigh Brackett (in an alternate timeline), as envisioned by S.M. Stirling in his novel, In the Courts of the Crimson Kings.

Looks like Leigh Brackett and Edgar Rice Burroughs were more right than some scientists. Ever since NASA’s Mariner 4 did a drive-by look-see at Mars in 1964, there have been plenty of astronomers and planetologists lining up to “debunk” the idea that the Red Planet was ever anything but an arid rustball since the formation of the solar system.

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Sailing With the Sea Kings of Mars: Brackett’s The Sword of Rhiannon

Erik Mona and Planet Stories pulled off a sweet commemoration of a diamond jubilee this last June with their reprinting of The Sword of Rhiannon. It was in the June 1949 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories that Leigh Brackett’s, “The Sea Kings of Mars,” first appeared. With Brackett’s approval, that tale has been reprinted with the title of The Sword of Rhiannon ever since (or nearly so).

Beginning with the Ace Double that featured Conan the Conqueror on the flip-side, nearly all subsequent printings of Brackett’s novel sported The Sword of Rhiannon as the title. Simple (socio-) economics. As Leigh noted in her afterword to The Best of Leigh Brackett, post-war editors were getting more leery of publishing her type of ERB-influenced tales; tales where the Red Planet supported an ancient, humanoid population amidst which Earthmen found adventure. This was due to the (at the time) recent (and dream-shattering) advances in the sciences. Apparently, faster-than-light drives were more “real” than the possibility of life on Mars (though the opposite seems just as likely today). Renaming this story “The Sword of Rhiannon” allowed a better chance of an unwitting (and lucky) reader picking up the book and then getting pulled in by Brackett’s hard-boiled, Howardian prose. The fact that Leigh persisted in writing later tales like “The Secret of Sinharat” and “The People of the Talisman” is a testament to her authorial courage and passion for the Martian “sword-and-planet” sub-genre.


Paizo’s new reprinting of The Sword of Rhiannon is the best showcase for this novel thus far assayed, in my opinion. The cover by Daren Bader is well-wrought and action-packed. Nicola Griffith’s introduction, while quite thoughtful and appreciated by yours truly, could have been a bit better, perhaps. Then again, that leaves room for the tossing-in of my two coppers, doesn’t it? On with the tale…

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REH and JRRT Books on the Horizon

legend_of_sigurd_gudrunWe live in halcyon days, my friends. Sure, there’s a global “economic downturn” grinding all and sundry ‘neath its leaden wheels and there is a possible influenza pandemic looming (or “lowering,” as REH might say), but we aficionados of the works of Robert E. Howard and John Ronald Reuel Tolkien have much to celebrate in the many coming months, gloom n’ doom notwithstanding.

Firstly, there is The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun by JRRT, which is being released on May 5th. The dearly departed Steve Tompkins gave us (or, at least, myself) a much-appreciated heads-up on this project. At 384 pages, this volume outstrips the recent The Children of Hurin in pagination, though only time will tell whether it does the same in its quality of story-telling. Considering Tolkien’s deep investment in the mythic ‘Nordic’ North (far deeper than Howard’s, I would argue), I have high and lofty hopes for this publication. The dark and bloody Volsungasaga, forged in the depths of the Germanic Dark Ages, was always a well-spring of inspiration for Tollers.

Coming in October from the Library of America is the Peter Straub-edited, American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to the Pulps. Nestled like a blasphemous, obsidian jewel amongst tales from Robert W. Chambers and Clark Ashton Smith (and, of course, Poe) is Robert E. Howard’s seminal Lovecraftian yarn, “The Black Stone.” Inclusion of a Howard story in a Library of America publication is always a provocation for (at least minor) rejoicing. I have Bill Thom (of Howard Works and Coming Attractions fame) to thank for this welcome news.

REHupan Frank Coffman has his much-anticipated Robert E. Howard: Selected Poems volume (in cooperation with the Robert E. Howard Foundation) slated for a release to coincide with the 2009 Howard Days. Considering the “poetry” theme for this year’s commemoration, Coffman’s is a most fitting book, one which complements the recently published A Word From the Outer Dark (Project Pride), along with The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard. A banner year for REH poetry fanatics. (Continue reading this post)

More REHupas Being Put Out To Pasture


Every few months I announce with trumpet blasts that I’m going to be getting rid of all my old REHupa mailings, putting them up on eBay at the rate of one per day. Each time this happens, I last but a few days before Real Life drags me off to other things. A few months later, the cycle repeats.

Well, it’s almost November 2007, time to give it the ol’ college try once more. REHupa #132 has been posted at eBay. It’s a fine example of a.p.a. material — here’s my description from the auction entry:

REHupa #132 clocked in at 195 pages, and included many items of interest. This was Morgan Holmes’ first mailing as Official Editor, a reign that would become noted for its kept-the-trains-running professionalism and for several unfortunate battles within the a.p.a., leading to the very first (and to date only) expulsions in the a.p.a.’s history. Morgan lays down the law in his Editorial: “If a member persists in making his ‘zine reading like it belongs in the basket weaving a.p.a….I will kidnap the offender, put him in a bare room, force him to read Lin Carter paperbacks and pump Ace of Base music constantly into the room. I mean business.” A new sheriff had just entered town.

Sword-and-Sorcery author David C. Smith (Oron, et al.) joined the a.p.a. with this mailing. At the time, Novalyne Price Ellis, L. Sprague de Camp, Glenn Lord, and Roy Thomas were Honorary Members, and this issue has a nice letter from Sprague in which he admits that “My biggest mistake in reviving Conan was taking on Carter as a collaborator without first trying to lure Leigh Brackett into the job.” But then he goes on to suggest: “My second biggest, I think, was in not taking a stronger line against the waist-length hair attributed by Frazetta to Conan in his cover painting for Conan the Adventurer.” Typical de Camp, getting so close to the real problem (bad pastiche) and then losing his way in criticism of the classic rendition of the Cimmerian, which most fans rightly see as perfection.

This mailing of REHupa is also notable for the announcement made by screenwriter Michael Scott Myers that The Whole Wide World had been greenlighted by Hollywood, complete with newspaper announcements. Other highlights of the Mailing include a reprint of Karl Edward Wagner’s essays “Celluloid S&S: Boon or Menace?” and “Hold the Bologna On Mine,” Steve Trout’s “final notes” on the editorial alterations in the Donald Grant Solomon Kane volumes (a revelation which has since become legendary in the field), Part III of Richard Toogood’s “Solomon Kane Chronology,” a review from the always interesting Rick McCollum titled “Baen’s Cormac Mac Art in Review,” Scott Sheaffer’s latest response to Richard Toogood in an a.p.a. shaking fight that along with one other would eventually get Sheaffer expelled from REHupa, and much else. At almost 200 pages of Howardian writ, it’s a good Mailing.

Let’s see if I can’t get a streak going with these things, and finally get them out of my archives and into the hands of fans who will give them a much better home.