Christmas in May

reh_poetry_book_3dFinally received my copy of The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, and boy, was it ever worth the wait. At 728 [redacted]-edited pages and well over seven-hundred poems, it’s a monster of a collection. Toss in the great design and layout courtesy of Jim Keegan, the fine workmanship of the Smythe-sewn signatures, and the inclusion of Steve Eng’s classic essay on Howard’s poetry as the book’s introduction, and we finally have the definitive one-volume, casebound edition of REH’s verse that we have been waiting decades for.

I was over at Donald Sidney-Fryer’s a few nights back and presented him with a copy of this book, and he was rapturous over it. He especially appreciated that the print was easy to read and didn’t engage in any of the stylistic oddities that plague so many poetry books, where they print the poems in italic or fill the pages with illustrations and faux-illuminated borders. With this book you get just the poems, presented simply but elegantly, making it easy to read and reference. Don also liked the cover, considering that photo of a young Howard in fighting trim his favorite surviving image of the Bard from Cross Plains.

I don’t envy the task that Rob had of categorizing everything. There are some very polished poems in the “Dialect & Doggerel” section that probably should be in their own category (I’m thinking here of boxing poems such as the moving “Kid Lavigne is Dead”), but the idea was to follow the same divisions that Eng used in his essay (a piece which is still the very best of its type twenty years after it was written), and that strategy works really well. To have a volume like this that us eminently suitable for handing to some newbie to Howard’s verse without any excuses, fronted by that great essay, is a godsend. I’ll be dipping into this for Howardian poetry fixes whenever I can. It’s a book that is so big and so entertaining, I don’t ever think I’ll reach the point where I’ve bled it dry of inspiration and wonders.

Everyone involved with this project deserves our highest praise. I only wish that right under the “Edited by [redacted]” and before the “Introduction by Steve Eng,” it would have included “Poems collected by Glenn Lord” to honor all of the early ground work he did digging up caches of long-lost REH verse around the country in various attics and boxes. If he hadn’t done that throughout the fifties and sixties, much of what we have would have been permanently lost. He of course gets the usual shout-out in the Acknowledgments, but his contribution is so gargantuan that it is deserving of being listed on the title-page, I think.

God, Steve Tompkins would have adored this book.

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)

The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard: First Impressions


Today, right in the midst of a domicilic transition, The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard landed on my doorstep. Knowing the consequences of giving in to temptation, I steeled my will and carried on carryin’ on the washer and the fridge and the bookcases…

Night has fallen and I now give myself a most just reward, drinking deep from the cup of Howard’s poetic genius.

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Some poems about REH


Steve Eng, known to many Cimmerian readers for his epic survey of Robert E. Howard’s poetry in The Dark Barbarian, has a new book of his own verse out. Titled The Defrauding of the Worms: Thirty Years of Poetry, it is the first in a projected four volumes that will collect the poems of Eng, who of late is incapacitated by Primary Progressive Aphasia (causing dementia and loss of memory). This book contains around two hundred items, including some that are about REH, so Howard fans have good reason to seek it out aside from a general love for solid versifying.

Machen on the Mind


With our country’s annual ghoulish bacchanal upon us, here’s something to imbibe in preparation for the festivities. Head over to The Wall Street Journal Online and read John J. Miller’s latest excursion into the weird fiction field, “Arthur Machen’s Stories: What Nightmares Are Made Of.”

Machen (1863-1947) was a writer of vast talent and scope (Don Herron has referred to him in my presence as “One of the all-time great prose stylists”) who today is most remembered for his horror stories. Machen’s connection with Robert E. Howard and the other great talents at Weird Tales is strong — Howard considered the three greatest weird stories of all time to be Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”…and Arthur Machen’s “The Novel of the Black Seal.” (Some of Howard’s letter and story excerpts referencing Machen are online here.)

Several of Howard’s most memorable memes were inspired by Machen, most notably the concept of monstrous Little People lurking in caverns under the bucolic English countryside, whether ultimately revealed as Picts or grimmer things. Check out stories such as “People of the Dark,” “The Black Stone,” “The Lost Race,” “Children of the Night,” and most powerfully, “Worms of the Earth.” (see Rusty Burke’s Introduction to Wandering Star/Del Rey’s Bran Mak Morn: The Last King for a bit more on the Machenian, and then Lovecraftian, influence on the Bran cycle.)

As such an influence, Machen has often featured prominently in Howard criticism. Steve Eng, who wrote the single best essay to date on Howard’s verse, “Barbarian Bard: The Poetry of Robert E. Howard,” comments in that piece that:

A perfect little poem is found in The Howard Collector anthology:

I too have strode those white-paved roads that run
Through dreamy woodlands to the Roman Wall,
Have seen the white towns gleaming in the sun,
And heard afar the elf-like trumpets call.

— summing up in four lines the whole spirit of the Welsh mystic and fantasy fictioneer Arthur Machen. It is the kind of lyric Machen’s friend John Gawsworth would have assuredly published in the 1930s, had he seen it.

(Eng also wrote one of the best essays on Machen, “Machen and Me,” which appeared in Nyctalops, and later edited a volume of Gawsworth’s poetry. Steve is out of the field now, suffering from some formĀ of adult senile dementia, but I hope to publish a selection of his best writing on Howard, Machen, and others in The Cimmerian Library at some point.)

It’s fun to read the Weird Tales guys wrestling with Machen’s visions. At one point Lovecraft confided to REH that:

Long and I often debate about the real folklore basis of Machen’s nightmare witch cults. I think they are Machen’s own inventions, for I never heard of them elsewhere; but Long cannot get over the idea that they have an actual source in European myth. Can you give us any light on this? We haven’t the temerity to ask Machen himself.

They should have wrote him — the resulting correspondence would have been great. And I doubt any temerity was necessary, as Machen certainly had a sense of humor — witness his book Precious Balms, a collection of bad reviews of his own work.

You can read The Novel of the Black Seal and Machen’s other works at Project Gutenberg Australia. If you want to learn even more, check out The Friends of Arthur Machen, a stellar organization comparable to REHupa that was nominated for a World Fantasy Award last year.

Howardian Cymbalism

Solomon Kane’s first words in “The Blue Flame of Vengeance” are a diverting quote-mashup. Jack Holinster is cursing up a storm in the “dim dream of waste lands and waste waters” that his local beach has become to him when he’s interrupted by a “deep vibrant voice”:

“Young man, your words are vain and wordly. They are as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Our steely-nerved Puritan duelist got the first half of that second sentence from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, 1.13: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (That letter-chapter is a hit factory that also offers “For now we see through a glass darkly,” “When I became a man I put away childish things,” and “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity” But Kane appends language from Act Five, Scene Five of Macbeth, wherein life is described (in William Faulkner-inspiring terms) as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Now it might be overthinking matters to attempt to assign date-brackets to “Blue Flame” by deducing from Kane’s borrowed words that he has to have read the King James Bible of 1611 and seen (un-Puritanically) a performance of Macbeth sometime between 1603 (the year the Stuarts took over from the Tudors and Shakespeare was looking to ingratiate himself with James I) and 1606 (allusions to the Gunpowder Plot have been read into the text). Howard might simply have enjoyed the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup-style “two great tastes that taste great together” effect of running the former Saul of Tarsus and the Scottish play together. After all, he pulled the same stunt, only more irreverently and working in even more from Corinthians, in Post Oaks and Sand Roughs (page 112, during a seven-up game with the “boarding house gang”:

“Now abideth high, low, jack and game, and the greatest of these is high,” droned Steve Costigan, leading a king. “Yea, though I speak with the voice of trumps and of jacks, and have queens to move mountains, yet have not high, I am as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals, full of kings and aces, signifyin’ game.”

That’s probably the funniest thing Steve says in the whole novel — let’s face it, he’s usually either a mope or a lout. Perhaps Howard began work on “Blue Flame” within a few months of finishing Post Oaks and Sand Roughs, or maybe his mashup just lodged in his memory. But there’s no better example of how he went to the King James Bible and Shakespeare early and often.

Who would survive must learn a savage tongue….


The poetry of Robert E. Howard has long been known for its martial splendor and potent battle imagery, but what is most striking to me is how successfully he managed to get into the heads of soldiers and warriors, and how completely he was able to immerse himself (and hence the reader) into the real-life thoughts and feelings of both killers and victims, the battle-hungry and the battle-weary. There’s a difference between merely sprinkling appropriate adjectives into your poetry and capturing the essence of the struggle of warfare in all its harrowing details and viewpoints. In his best work Howard achieves this again and again.

Consider this poem, written by Howard a full decade before the onset of World War II, and yet encapsulating perfectly the civilizational battle for supremacy that was about to explode upon the world:

“Little Brown Man Of Nippon”

Little brown man of Nippon
Who apes the ways of the west,
You have set the sword on your standard,
And the eagle on your crest.

Little brown man of Nippon,
You have dreamed a deadly dream;
You have waked the restless ravens
And the rousing vultures scream.

Oh, lines of an unborn empire,
Foam of a rising flood,
Your bones shall mark the borders,
The tide shall be your blood.

Little brown man of Nippon,
Though the star of the West be set,
And the last of the fair-haired strew the field
Where East and West be met —

Though you herd us down like cattle,
And hew us down like corn,
Our blood shall drown your vision
Of the empire yet unborn.

In utter desolation, and despair
At the end, on a blackened hill,
You shall sit and view your empire,
Broken and charred and still.

The beams of shattered houses,
Reared stark against the sky,
And fields wherein, for waving grain,
Long waves of dead men lie.

We will set the torch with our own hands
To wall and roof and spire;
We will cut the throats of our women,
And feed our babes to the fire;

We will fling our naked bosoms
Against your bloodied steel;
As you tread us under, dying,
Our teeth shall rend your heel.

But, little brown man of Nippon,
Should the dice fall otherwise,
And the gods of the fair-haired triumph
When the battle-dawns arise —

We will give your flesh to the sea-gulls
And your cities to the flame,
Till the world forgets your visions,
And the years forget your name.

Over your island empire
Shall our steel-clad squadrons fly
Till the land lies black and silent
Under a flame-ripped sky.

Till the hungry wolf goes slinking
Along your shattered streets,
And the kite in your ruined palace
Tears at the crimson meats.

And over the crimson gutters
Which infant bodies choke
The raven flaps and strangles
In the drifting shreds of smoke.

No plough shall break your valleys,
No song shall rouse your hill —
Still and silent the ploughmen,
The singers silent and still.

And your nation’s only emblem,
Oh, man of the crimson dream —
Save corpses in the broken streets
And the death-fires’ baleful gleam —

Shall hang at the prow of a cruiser,
That furrows the flying foam,
Bearing the spoils of conquest
To the fair-haired people’s home.

Shall hang at the prow of a cruiser,
Grinning and dripping red,
The price of a dream of empire —
Little brown man, your head.

The dwelling on the savagery and the tenacity of both sides, and the pain and bloodshed that would accompany any war between the powers of East and West, demonstrate striking parallels between Howard’s poetry and the verse written around the same time by actual soldiers in the field. On the web you can read Larry Richter’s first ‘zine for REHupa from many years ago, where he argues that George S. Patton shared many qualities with Howard when writing his own ghostly battle poems. It’s a compelling comparison; who can forget George C. Scott stopping at a line of Roman ruins in the film Patton and giving a speech seemingly written by Howard’s reincarnation hero James Allison?

“The Carthaginians defending the city were attacked by three Roman legions. The Carthaginians were proud and brave, but they couldn’t hold. They were massacred. Arab women stripped them of their tunics and their swords and lances. The soldiers lay naked in the sun. Two thousand years ago. I was here.”

Men who share Howard’s predilections are plentiful for those who keep a lookout for them. I recently came across another soldier-poet in the Howardian mold. In late 1941, Lt. Henry G. Lee was a twenty-seven-year-old recruit serving with the Philippine Division of the US forces. Raised in Pasadena, California, he was an amateur versifier who wrote regularly into a journal about life and battle. In the wake of Pearl Harbor, realizing that he was about to be plunged into the thick of bloodthirsty war, Lee penned the following poem:

“Prayer Before Battle (To Mars)”
(December 8, 1941)
Before thine ancient altar, God of War,
Forlorn, afraid, alone, I kneel to pray.
The gentle shepherd whom I would adore,
Faced by thy blazing plaything, slips away.
And I am drained of faith — alone — alone.
Who now needs faith to face thy outthrust sword,
Bereft of hope, turned to pagan to the bone.
I kneel to thee and hail thee as my Lord.
From such a God as thee, I ask not life,
My life is forfeited, the hour is late.
Thou need not swerve the bullet, dull the knife.
I ask but strength to ride the wave of fate.
And one thing more — to validate this strife,
And my own sacrifice — teach me to hate.

Teach me to hate. Those of you who have read my essay “The Reign of Blood,” in The Barbaric Triumph know that, in my opinion, it would be difficult to conjure a more Howardian sentiment than that.

Months later — with the islands under assault by the Japanese, and certain defeat, capture, and torture looming — Lee and the rest fought bravely alongside Philippine scouts, who he immortalized in another stirring poem:

“To the Philippine Scouts”
Philippine Scouts-N. Luzon, S. Luzon, Abucay, Moran, The Points, Toul Pocket, Mt. Samat, Corregidor (December 8, 1941-May 8, 1942)

The desperate fight is lost; the battle done.
The brown, lean ranks are scattered to the breeze
Their cherished weapons rusting in the sun
Their mouldering guidons hidden by the leaves.
No more the men who did not fear to die
Will plug the broken line while through the din
Their beaten comrades raise the welcome cry
“Make way, make way, the Scouts are moving in.”

The jungle takes the long-defended lines
The trench erodes; the wire rusts away
The lush lank grasses and the trailing vines
Soon hide the human remains of the fray.
The battle ended and the story told
The blood-smeared leaves of history begin
To open to the Scouts, as they unfold
The little tired soldiers enter in.

The men who were besieged on every side
Who knew the disillusion of retreat
And still retained their fierce exultant pride
And were soldiers — even in defeat,
Now meet the veterans of ten thousand years
Now find a welcome worthy of their trade
From men who fought with cross bows and with spears
With bullet and with arrow and with spade.

The grizzled veterans Rome was built upon
The Death-head horde of Attila the Hun
The “Yellow Horror” of the greatest Kahn
The guardsmen of the first Napoleon
And all the men in every nameless fight
Since man first strove with man to prove his worth
Shall greet the Scouts as is their right —
No finer soldiers ever walked the earth.

And then the Scouts will form to be reviewed
Each scattered unit now once more complete
Each weapon and each bright crisp flag renewed
And high above the cadence of their feet
Will come the loud clear virile welcoming shout
From many throats before the feasts begin
Their badge of honor mid their comrades rout —
“Make way, make way, the Scouts are moving in.”

Starving and without aid of any kind, Lt. Lee and his men finally surrendered on April 9, 1942 with the rest of the Americans, and became prisoners of the fearsome Japanese. He was allowed to send a single postcard to his family with his signature on it, and then spent the next three years in hellish conditions in an Imperial prison camp. The Japanese had never signed the Geneva Conventions, and they subjected their charges to a host of horrors.

During that time, Henry Lee continued to surreptitiously record poems in his now-hidden journal, forging a series of very poignant and emotional paeans to warfare and prison that Howard fans will find very familiar.

“Fighting On”

I see no gleam of victory alluring
No chance of splendid booty or of gain
If I endure — I must go on enduring
And my reward for bearing pain — is pain
Yet, though the thrill, the zest, the hope are gone
Something within me keeps me fighting on


“Death March”

So you are dead. The easy words contain
No sense of loss, no sorrow, no despair.
Thus hunger, thirst, fatigue, combines to drain
All feeling from our hearts. The endless glare,
The brutal heat, anesthetize the mind.
I can not mourn you now. I lift my load,
The suffering column moves. I leave behind
Only another corpse, beside the road.

Howard’s own fascination with capture, torture, and escape, with the evil that men do to those under their bloody thumbs and bootheels, finds echo in Lt. Lee’s lines about an execution, perhaps one of many which he himself witnessed during those grim years:

Red in the eastern sun, before he died,
We saw his glinting hair; his arms were tied.
There by his lonely form, ugly and grim
We saw an open grave waiting for him.

We watched him from our fence, in silent throng,
Each with the fervent prayer, “God make him strong.”
They offered him a smoke, he’d not have that,
Then at his captor’s feet he coldly spat.

He faced the leaden hail, his eyes were bare;
We saw the tropic rays glint in his hair.
What mattered why he stood facing the gun?
We saw a nation’s pride there in the sun.

How desolate must his soul have become after three years of such misery, not knowing if he would ever be rescued, or whether the next crack of a pistol would signify his own death. By 1944 the war was going America’s way, but to the prisoners victory and freedom were but a stale dream. Three years to the day after his Pearl Harbor-inspired poem, Lt. Lee wrote another that gives us an idea of how much he had changed by that time:

“Three Years After”
(December 8, 1944)

“Teach me to hate,” I prayed — for I was young,
And fear was in my heart, and faith had fled.
“Teach me to hate! for hate is strength,” I said
“A staff to lean on.” Thus my challenge flung
Into the thunder of the clouds that hung
Cloaking with terror all the days ahead —
“Teach me to hate — the world I loved is dead;
Who would survive must learn a savage tongue.”

And I have learned — and paid in days that ran
To bitter schooling. Love was lost in pains,
Hunger replaced the beauty in life’s plan,
Honor and virtue vanished with the rains
And faith in God dissolved with faith in man.
I have my hate! But nothing else remains.

Had Howard lived, would he have reached a similar state of mind? Would he have perhaps fought in that very war, and experienced its horrors for himself? How would it have affected his fiction? We’ll never know, but in the writing of Lt. Lee we see what might have been, a man who sees the darkness and the unadorned ferocity of the human soul in ways seldom expressed in this comparatively tender age.

Howard didn’t have war to contend with, but he was engaged for all his life in a war of the mind and of the soul, a battle against the scourges of depression, the pulp marketplace, and the hatred directed at him by the very town in which he lived. Howard was in a prison camp of sorts, too, and with no way out. And it eventually killed him every bit as dead as if he had fallen under the bayonets of the Japanese.


As it happened, there was no escape for Henry Lee, either. In late December 1944, he was put on a transport ship and sent to Japan as slave labor. Before leaving, he hastily dug a hole under a prison hut and buried his journal of poems, hoping that someday in the future — as a free soldier in a victorious American army — he might come back and retrieve it. En route to Japan, an American plane caught sight of the unmarked boat and unleashed a hail of bombs, sending the transport to the bottom of the ocean — and the young Poet of Bataan along with it. Lee was thirty years old — the exact age Howard was when he met his own violent end. Two young poets possessed of searing thoughts and a preternatural sensitivity for the power of words and rhyme, both lost to the worms and the ages.

If there is a happy ending to be found in either man’s story, it is that neither has been forgotten. In Howard’s case, we ultimately have people like Glenn Lord, L. Sprague de Camp, Novalyne Price Ellis, and Rusty Burke to thank for that. As for Lee, on January 30, 1945 the prison where he had spent three years, Camp Cabanatuan, was liberated by the Sixth Ranger Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Col. Henry A. Mucci, who had audaciously led his men far behind the Japanese front and taken the enemy unawares. This unbelievable action — depicted in the book Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission, and later in the 2005 film The Great Raid — resulted in the rediscovery of Lee’s buried journal, and subsequently (in 1948) the publishing of his poems for posterity in a volume called Nothing But Praise. The Great Raid had come a few precious weeks too late to save Henry Lee, but it managed to save his life’s work: a small dirt-encrusted journal containing faded poetry scribbled out with such emotion that it may as well have been penned in blood.

Something tells me that Robert E. Howard and Lt. Lee would have made fine friends. Both understood that speaking truth often requires a savage tongue, and that there is honor and succor to be found in struggle and warfare and death. The worlds of history and poetry are both the better for having known them.

Above and Beyond the Call of Booty

No, not the “-licious” kind of booty. Pirate booty. Swag. The other wages of sin. Howard Pyle prefaced his Book of Pirates with a rhetorical question: “Why is it that a little spice of deviltry lends not an unpleasantly titillating tang to the great mass of respectable flour that goes to make up the pudding of our modern civilization?” Advance word has whispered that Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest will add a little spice of not-particularly-Disneyfied devilry to the great mass of not-to-be-baked-with flour-substitute that constitutes the 2006 summer releases — indeed, some genre-oriented websites are going so far as to suggest that Dead Man’s Chest is to 2003’s The Curse of the Black Pearl as The Empire Strikes Back was to Star Wars.

The captain’s-share of the credit for the phenomenon that the first Pirates of the Caribbean became goes of course to Johnny Depp and his inspired tribute to the woozy body language and woozier speech patterns of Keith Richards, who in his protracted heyday treated everything life had to offer as one defenseless Spanish treasure fleet. But Captain Jack Sparrow’s scurvy groove and raffish glide stood out all the more against the backdrop of a supernatural pirate story, for Gore Verbinski’s film belonged, much to the delight of a few of us, to a subgenre of a subgenre. We learned early on that the Black Pearl had “black sails, [was] crewed by the damned, and [was] captained by a man so evil that Hell itself spat him back out”–Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa, whom vindictive Aztec gods (and why wouldn’t they be vindictive?) afflicted with a death-in-life condition in which he and his men were unable to eat, drink, or be merry. Not to be outdone, the crew of tentacle-bearded soul collector Davy Jones’ Flying Dutchman in Dead Man’s Chest, all of them recruited from sinking vessels, are transmuting into anthropomorphic sea creatures whose shore leave options will soon be limited to Innsmouth.

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“Recompense” analyzed

Here’s a link to one of Howard’s most famous poems, “Recompense,” including commentary on the poem by various aficionados, including Howard scholars Joe Marek and Frank Coffman.

Ben Zoom Strikes Again


Not more than a week after swearing off Howard fandom for the umpteenth time, Ben is back with an all-new online publication chock full of his inimitable, indescribably illiterate ramblings on weird fiction. The name of the project is Calenture: A Journal of Studies in Speculative Verse, wherein one can peruse such certain classics as “”The Clean Shaven Barbarian: A Masculine Reading of Robert E. Howard’s ‘The Gold and the Grey’,” the first paragraph of which reads:

THE POETRY of Texan author Robert E. Howard is known to inherit a sense of barbarism, pure machismo and masculinity, in which the dominating male performs all the desired and necessary roles one is meant to embark upon. However, his work, much like the author, could not always uphold this performance, and shades of constraint and sensitivity became more apparent over the course of his life. Students of gender theory comment that masculinity has evolved into something much different than its literary predecessor; a change brought on upon the gender movements in the latter twentieth century. No longer is it a case of being a gentleman or a brute; it is now a matter of performing the ‘ideal’ subject position. Normative masculinity seeks to merge the two opposing forces together. In the following article, Howard’s “The Gold and the Grey” (a.k.a. “An Echo From the Iron Harp”, will be used to discuss the double-bind inherent in normative masculinity, operating both aggressively as power and repressively as constraint.

Great, great stuff for those of you who can’t get enough of Ben Zoom. Perhaps the best thing about the journal is that it is written using the risible quasi-academic MLA style that is the vogue in weird fiction studies, proving yet again that being MLA approved or having an article with footnotes means absolutely nothing in the real world. Without good writing and half a brain, all the citations and certifications in the world can’t help you. It’s time that fans of REH, CAS, and HPL leave all of that nonsense to real academics and concentrate instead on writing well and accurately for intelligent, general readers.

You can download the whole PDF here. Currently Calenture is soliciting papers for a special Clark Ashton Smith issue. One can only hope that Fate takes pity on poor CAS and renders the journal defunct before that can ever appear.