Robert Holdstock: Gone On to Avilion


As some TC readers may know, acclaimed English fantasy author, Robert Holdstock, died just the other day. Over at the REHupa blog, Morgan Holmes gives his personal perspective on Holdstock’s career. Scottish fantasy author, Brian Ruckley, blogs about his deep admiration for Holdstock here.

 From all accounts, Robert Holdstock was a man who loved life and lived it to the fullest.

Of Buffalos and Women-Warriors: CRS’ brand new blog


Gbo (or close enough)


Charles R. Saunders has posted a very helpful blog entry for the bovinically-challenged on his website. Saunder’s utterly bad-ass Sword-and-Sorcery dossouye-coldheroine, Dossouye, is partnered in her exploits by an equally deadly “side-kick” named Gbo. Gbo is not to be trifled with, nor is he an Asian water buffalo. Mr. Saunders sets the record straight.

I first read about Dossouye and Gbo in Amazons! around 1980 (the story in question was “Agbewe’s Sword”). At the time, I was struck by how unique CRS’ pairing of warrior and bull was in fantasy fiction. Unique, but not unlikely. Having grown up around cattle all my life, it seemed far more probable that a (woman-) warrior would bestride such a steed than, say, a dragon. Bovines, even domesticated ones, are formidable beasts. Generally speaking, for any herd animal to survive, it must possess one of two traits: speed or lethality. Bovines aren’t renowned for their speed. There is a perfectly logical reason why the very capable predators of sub-Saharan Africa have never wiped out the Cape buffalo. Cape buffalos are bad news.

(Continue reading this post)

Afrikaaner Bob


In the latest The Dark Man, Charles Hoffman’s “Elements of Sadomasochism in the Fiction and Poetry of Robert E. Howard” has some interesting comments on The Hyena“, a very early Howard story written while Howard was still in his teens.
It is interesting to find that he also used this setting with two other tales, “The Slayer“, and The Wings of the Bat“, both unprinted until The Last of The Trunk. Both tales also involve Ju-Ju men, or witch-doctors, plotting mayhem against the whites. One would conclude that The Slayer is a direct sequel to The Hyena“, as the narrator refers to having killed Senecoza previously. But we are told by Hoffman that The Hyena was written in 1924, and the editor of Trunk tells us the other stories are “pre-1924”. So either Howard wrote the sequel first, or more likely someone is in error. In a homage to the Alan Quatermain stories, the king of the Zulus in Bat is named Umslopogas. It still amazes me that out of all the material available to him, August Derleth included “Hyena in the second Howard collection, The Dark Man and Others.

DEUCE ADDS: A couple years ago, over at, Patrice Louinet had this to say about “The Slayer”:

REH actually began a sort of sequel to the story, featuring the same hero and mentioning Senecoza. This fragment, tentatively titled “The Slayer” by Glenn Lord, will be included in The Last of the Trunk, the book collecting the immense majority of as-yet-unpublished Howard fiction, forthcoming from the Robert E. Howard Foundation.

“The Wings of the Bat,” to my ear, definitely sounds like it was partially a riff on Sax Rohmer’s Bat-Wing, a book we know REH read. [redacted] blogged about it [redacted].

As for Derleth selecting “The Hyena” for The Dark Man, I’m not particularly surprised, considering Derleth’s blinkered and untrustworthy taste in regards to REH’s fiction. On the other hand, just before The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard was released, there was a certain REH fan shambling about the blogosphere who practically called Rusty Burke a Howardian anti-christ for leaving “The Hyena” out. He cited Derleth’s unerring judgement for support.

The Worlds of Milton Davis


Ndoro and Obaseki

I do think the time is overpast for drawing inspiration from other milieus — Oriental, Near Eastern, North and Black African, Amerindian, Polynesian, an entire world — and am happy to see that several writers have begun doing so.

— Poul Anderson, from his essay, “On Thud and Blunder.”

Over at the Black Gate blog, Charles R. Saunders has logged on and made another (and most welcome) guest appearance. His motivation this time is to promote the work of an up-and-coming fantasy author. Click here and then click back, if you would.

(Continue reading this post)

Remembering Poul Anderson



Poul Anderson would be eighty-three years old today. That means I’ve been reading his fiction for about thirty years now. The realization of that would be even more twinge-inducing if I didn’t constantly remind myself that I was anderson-vault-schomburga mere thirteen years old when I started.

My love for Poul’s writing began when I bought a first-edition copy (1952) of Vault of the Ages from the Oswego Public Library (the same institution from whence I purchased my first Harold Lamb and Merritt books). Alex Schomburg dustjacket/endpapers and everything. All for one shiny quarter (the library ended up rebuying the book in paperback). The second (or first?) Anderson novel ever published.

“Vault” was a pretty good introduction to Poul Anderson for a thirteen year-old. The book was written for the “Young Adult” market, with a certain proportion of the sermonizing that genre usually requires. On the plus side, Poul based his novel around a post-apocalytic setting, provided numerous great combat/battle scenes and featured “northern barbarians” as sympathetic antagonists whose narrative purpose was to give a stagnant culture a shot in the arm.

(Continue reading this post)

Miller Gives Kelton His Due


Some might remember that a while back I blogged about the life and fiction of Elmer Kelton, possibly the greatest Western writer ever. Over at The Wall Street Journal Online, John J. Miller tips his own hat to the legacy of Kelton while also providing a look at Other Men’s HorsesElmer’s posthumous novel and the final installment in his “Texas Rangers” series . Check it out here.

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.

(Continue reading this post)

Maliszewski and “The Books That Founded D&D”


James Maliszewski, the proprietor of Grognardia and a Friend of The Cimmerian, has posted an article on The Escapist website. It is called “The Books That Founded D&D” and I found it quite interesting. I thought it worth some commentary.

Mr. Maliszewski starts his essay noting the various reasons why J.R.R. Tolkien should be dismissed as major influence upon the role-playing game that Gygax and Arneson developed. Most of the evidence used to back this up is cited from Gygax’s own writings. The fact that these writings date from before and after the threatened lawsuit by Tolkien Enterprises means very little, in my view.

Tolkien deeply influenced Dungeons and Dragons. That is my humble opinion and I stand by it. The Elves as portrayed in D&D would be far different if JRRT had never written his novel, The Lord of the Rings. The same for D&D dwarves. Double ditto for “orcs,” which species (with that particular appellation) would never exist, but for Tollers. Triple ditto for the “halflings” in the game (whom I always considered ridiculous, in game terms). All of that, however, is fodder for another blog entry. Now, let’s get to all the stuff that James Maliszkewski and I do agree on (more or less)…

(Continue reading this post)

One Good Turn Deserves Another

first_assassin_frontAs I noted in this post a few weeks ago, pal of The Cimmerian John J. Miller recently published his first novel, a Civil War-era thriller titled The First Assassin. Sales have been gratifying, with the book hitting #468 on’s numerical rankings at one point.

However, some guys hiding behind pseudonyms have mounted a coordinated attack on John’s book at, writing short bilious reviews and then tagging each other’s comments as “Helpful” so they gain weight and rise to the head of the list. It’s a clear attempt to hurt Miller’s sales and reputation, spearheaded by people who haven’t even read the book, based solely on their opinion about John’s day job.

Now those of you who read and enjoy this blog know how good Miller has been to REH and his fans. He’s published positive articles on REH in national venues, taking care to get his facts straight. He’s plugged the work of REH scholars like Rusty Burke and Paul Sammon in both written and podcast interviews. I can think of no other reporter who has done a better job of promoting Howard and his work to mainstream newspaper and magazine audiences. We all know how often REH gets skunked by reporters via error-riddled jeremiads, so this track record is no small feat.

If you are at all appreciative of the numerous kindnesses Miller has showered upon the field of Howard Studies, I urge you to visit the Amazon page for The First Assassin and take a minute to help pay back that karmic debt. Of course, if you haven’t read the book you shouldn’t write a review. But there’s nothing stopping you from reading the reviews already there, determining which ones are from people who freely admit to not having read the book, and then clicking NO on the question, “Was this review helpful to you?” As of this writing, the following reviews have numerous “helpful” votes:

“No WONDER this was rejected by any sane publisher!!!!!!”

“Never has Amazon’s preview function performed its task so admirably. Save your pennies and buy some comic books instead–they’re still your best entertainment value!”

“. . .the leaden, awkward prose and contrived storyline ensures that this is a book which will require the assistance of powerful chemical stimulation to finish.”

“Any reasonably literate person need only peruse the “look inside” function to get a sense of how crushingly poorly written this book is. There’s a reason it’s being self-published through a vanity press/laser printer shop.”

“I can’t help but feel that competition for this year’s Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Prize is over.”

These are all people who freely admit to not having read the book. It would be great if Cimmerian readers could reverse this ratio by clicking NO to “Was this review helpful?” and thus marking these for what they are: literary drive-by shootings of no help to truly interested readers whatsoever.

Furthermore, if you agree that any or all of these violate Amazon’s Terms of Service for reviews, which forbids “Profanity, obscenities, or spiteful remarks,” you can click on “Report This” and the the “Report as Inappropriate” button to alert Amazon that they should remove the review entirely. I think such extremely negative reviews — written in lockstep by a bunch of people who freely admit to not having read the book — certainly qualify.

There are also comments attached to each review, with the same nameless hooligans causing more mischief there. Each comment asks you to rate whether it contributed to the discussion — you can click NO to these as well if, like me, you disagree with what these guys are doing to John.

John J. Miller has done REH fandom many good turns over the last few years. Here is an opportunity to do one back. If you enjoyed the Cimmerian print magazine, and continue to enjoy the blog, you’d be doing me a special favor by following these links over to Amazon and helping to defend a solid friend of REH against those who would ruin the launch of his novel, a book that he worked on for thirteen years.

Picacio Tapped for ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ Calendar







According to Missions Unknown, San Antonio-based artist, John Picacio, has been chosen to illustrate the 2011 calendar devoted to George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series, ‘A Song of Ice and Fire.’ Also mentioned in the article is the fact that Martin has been in the UK since late October, where he is keeping an eye on the filming of the HBO series based upon his epic fantasy novels. Read more about it here.

John Picacio also provided the cover painting for [redacted]’s Howard biography, Blood and Thunder.