V4n3 heading your way


Within the next few days, at least. Until then, check out some excerpts here. For those of you who recoiled at the negativity inherent in the last issue, this one should serve as a welcome salve. Lots of food for thought. I daresay the Shovlin piece is arguably the single best thing on Solomon Kane ever written.

Bad First “Impressions”

Despite my best efforts, occasionally an order gets damaged in transit, or affected by even more minor factors. I just received word from one customer that the Cimmerian Library issue from his most recent order made a subtle impression on the cover of his deluxe V4n2, due to the tightness with which both issues were packed together.

Just to reiterate for those who don’t know, I have a pretty liberal return policy. If you are unsatisfied with your issue for any reason, simply mail it back with a note (the package doesn’t have to be fancy, as I’ll be destroying the ish upon receipt anyway), and I’ll send you out a new one along with a cheque covering your postage. In the meantime I’ll be thinking up new ways to solve this latest wrinkle in my shipping procedures.

V4n2 and Cim Lib #4 ready to ship


Our fourth year of production continues with the release of V4n2, an issue that took a long time to put together. It features a deep symposium about the two anthologies released last year, and a lot of research went into the creation of each article. This is the most text-heavy issue I can remember in a long time. Nary a picture breaks up the flow, save of course the art of Andrew Cryer. Just tens of thousands of words that are sure to stimulate your mind and provide you with new avenues of thinking about Howard’s work. I’ll be interested to see how readers like it. It’s probably the most intellectually confrontational and incendiary issue since V1n1 rocketed TC onto the Howardian scene in April, 2004.

Another pleasure to be found in this issue is the poetry. Longtime Lovecraft fan Fred Phillips provides the verse, and I daresay he is one of the more talented poets I’ve featured. I’ve already bought another one from him, and hope he keeps contributing for years to come.

Subscriber orders are all packed and ready to ship — they should get out this weekend. But this month you are in for an added treat. I’m also releasing the fourth volume in my Cimmerian Library line of booklets, and this one is loads of fun, definitely one of the best yet:


Not only does this booklet reprint one of the classic Howard essays, but it offers a number of other articles written by Herron that expand on the themes begun in the original “Conan vs. Conantics.” Karl Edward Wagner comes under some scrutiny, as does Richard Tierney and his fellow pasticher David C. Smith. And of course, L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter are analyzed in that way that only Don Herron can pull off. Everyone who has seen the cover thinks this is one of the all-time great cover images, based on pure entertainment value as well as the subtext present, and I’m inclined to agree. Says It All.

My next goal is to get the June issue edited and published in time for Howard Days, along with another Cimmerian Library book I think you will all enjoy. I’m still working on the V3 Index, and that might appear soon after Howard Days, perhaps in time to ship out with the August issue. The slipcases for V3 are coming too, but they have proven to be quite expensive and time-consuming to make at this unique extra-large size, and so it’s been slow going. The price on those will likely be $80, due to having a footprint double the size of last year. Making them two pieces rather than a typical one-piece open-faced slipcase also adds $$$ to the cost. I think that for V4, with a standard bi-monthly galaxy of issues, I’ll be able to reuse some of the old dies and designs and get the price back down to $40.

A TC Surprise on eBay


I’ll never understand eBay buyers. Don’t they do even a bit of research before they toss bids down on things they know nothing about? The latest weirdness happened today, as a Limited edition issue of The Cimmerian V1n1 was snapped up by a buyer for $28.50 (hat tip: Brian Leno). The seller — dmacmaniac from Austin, who I assume is Dennis McHaney of the REH Inner Circle — even notified buyers that the issue in question had an unseemly spot on the cover. And as far as I can tell there are no signatures on this issue or anything else to make it special.

So what’s so weird about this, you ask? Only that this issue in this edition is still in print on The Cimmerian‘s website for $10. I would expect the price on these to go up once they sell out, but for someone to buy this today at this price blows my mind. There’s only 49 left –I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to the prices once these are no longer available. I still recall the way that Joe Marek’s New Howard Readers shot through the roof once they went out of print, and those had such terrible production values that I refused to buy them on principle. Thank God I’m not a collector, else I would have been forced to buy them. Ewwww.

That first issue of TC is still one of my favorites. My editorial was more right that I ever could have imagined in 2004 — I’m glad I made it as brassy as I did. Don’s article was at the time decried by some readers as malicious and inflammatory, but in light of subsequent events — Wandering Star’s implosion, Del Rey’s stalled hardcovers — his predictions about the series becoming just another overpriced, broken set of books like the Grants now sparkle with the aura of fulfilled prophecy. That issue also heralded the reintroduction of Darrell Schweitzer into the Howardian debate after many years spent in the outlands of Weird Tales and wider fandom, and watching his voice become a staple among the Cimmerian chorus has been a pleasure. Gary Romeo’s takedown of Wandering Star’s editorial policies has been subjected to three years of withering concentrated assaults from “the Orthodoxy” (as he refers to his detractors), but I have yet to see a response that rises above the pedantic to rock the foundations of his core claims, which to my mind remain as impregnable as ever. Even the faults of the issue — the old-style foil on the Deluxe covers, the lack of a Lion’s Den, the inferior print quality and picture repro compared to today, the subtle warping inflicted on the issues due to my soon-abandoned experiments with shrink-wrapping — remind me of how much things have changed for the better in the last three years.

$28.50 — usually that kind of a price markup is reserved for publications containing some rare Howard fragment. If TC — the first Howard fanzine to stringently avoid relying on original Howard to buoy its sales and collectability — starts regularly achieving such inflated amounts at auction, it will be a pleasant step forward in our field. For the first time, a journal dedicated to writing about Howard will be fetching significant prices on its own merits, without dangling bits of original REH in front of collectors who otherwise wouldn’t read the magazine.

Slipslidin’ Away


We’ll, you can’t say I didn’t warn you. Somebody snapped up the last pair of slipcases for Volume 1 and 2, so they are officially sold out, now and forever. I’ve already had a few people suddenly pop in since I posted the SOLD OUT sign and ask if I might possibly have an extra set tucked away somewhere for a rainy day that I’d care to sell. Terribly sorry, but nope. I imagine as time goes on we’ll see some pop up on eBay or at various conventions, as some folks die off or gafiate as per norm.

But here’s the thing for you latecomers: the slipcases for Volume 3 are coming soon. There will only be fifty made, and by my current count 37 of those are already pre-ordered and spoken for. If you have any thoughts about getting one, this is no time to dilly-dally — pop me an email and reserve one. You don’t need to send money yet, just let me know you will be buying one so I can guarantee there will be one available for you.

Even if you don’t have the ones for V1 and V2, you should get V3 now and then hunt down the others later. Heck, you might even consider buying two V3 slips now, and putting your V1 and V2 issues in one of them for safekeeping until such time as you get the original cases for those volumes.

A final option if you are a new guy just getting into TC and wondering how best to catch up: you can buy a Complete Deluxe Set of V1 or V2 while supplies last. There is a markup on these sets over the original list prices, but the price will only rise higher as more issues go out of print, so there’s no time like the present to make your move. When you stop to think about how expensive even some of the worst REH chapbooks from yesteryear are these days — solely due to passing time, growing scarcity, and increased interest in REH from collectors — you can imagine what it’s going to be like collecting Cimmerians in ten years when everything is out of print and there’s a universe of only fifty slipcased sets in existence. Don’t let yourself get into the all-too-common position of not buying something easily available now only to regret it later.

With dozens of TC‘s now in print for you to collect and store, the custom slipcases are by far the easiest and most elegant way to get the job done. Ask anyone who’s snagged a pair — they rock. I know one guy who also stores some of his old Necronomicon Press books in them, owing to the similar size.

Little Blue Books


Well, I can scarcely believe I’m saying it: Volume 3 is over.

In terms of sheer work, 2006 was the longest year of my life. A full-time job, lots of overtime, and TC acting as a second full-time gig. And scattered in between there were three trips to Texas, one of them lasting two weeks, plus separate trips to Frisco, Denver, and Phoenix. It’s not often in life that one brushes up against the actual physical and mental limits of one’s endurance. I worked through to the dawn more times than I can count, and there were several points last year where my body ceased to obey orders and basically shut down until I caught up on rest. That’s a frightening specter to look in the eye, but at the same time it’s somewhat exhilarating to learn your limits. It’s as if you catch a quick glimpse of your True Self.

Nevertheless, Volume 3 will forever haunt my memories, all twelve issues of it. I’m working on the Index and the Slipcase now during my spare time, but the majority of my energy is now focused on the next challenge: Volume 4.

The color this year is Midnight Blue, and I felt the website and blog could use an updated look to mark the occasion. The V4n1 issues (February 2007) are all finished, printed, and packed. I’ll be taking them to the post office this weekend, and they should start hitting subscribers’ mailboxes early next week. Pop on over to the V4n1 page to read some excerpts and see what’s in store for you. New writers, new artist, new discoveries — Volume 4 has picked up right where Volume 3 left off.

I’m looking forward to having time to get out some more Cimmerian Library volumes this year as well. A half-dozen interesting ideas for booklets are already on the back burner. And there are a host of other Howard projects I’d like to work on as well, stuff that’s percolated in my mind for a long while. One of the downsides of editing a journal is that you spend so many hours working on other people’s prose that you end up having little time left for your own. With luck, going back to a comfortable bi-monthly schedule will allow me to get back to writing.

Keep an eye on the blog for announcements on some of these things, and until then enjoy the first volume of the post-Centennial era.


A Cimmerian erratum — Ten Words


Over the three years of The Cimmerian‘s existence, we’ve had our fair share of typos and errors of fact, and I’ve learned not to sweat them to [sic] much. Comes with the territory even when slaving for years on a book, much less hurriedly throwing together a journal every month. In the past I’ve stated that contributor Brian Leno was from Bismarck, Nebraska despite having his address on file and despite having studied US state capitals in grade school. There have been a handful of others — calling an old Arkham House book Dark Man, Dark Heart instead of the correct Dark Mind, Dark Heart, printing a Darrell Schweitzer letter where he presents a numbered list of arguments and uses the #6 twice, listing the wrong page number for an article on one issue’s Table of Contents. Things like that, each one of them slipping quietly past me and my eagle-eyed proofing team. Readers are good at correcting this kind of thing after the fact, and no real loss of information or comprehension has resulted.

But this morning I just received a call from Donald Sidney-Fryer, who said he had found a much worse problem in the printed version of his recent V3n12 essay, “Robert E. Howard: Epic Poet in Prose.” Specifically, there seems to be a whole missing line of text. I checked, and sure enough, there’s one line missing at the bottom of a column. Head on over to page 11 of V3n12 (December 2006) and you’ll see the following:

One of the most characteristic of the epic devices is the epic listing or catalogue, often featuring the names — typically highfalutin’ or exotic or both — of the different armies or tribes making up the fighting

[missing line]

the divertissement — the long and elaborate suite of dances in a full-length classical ballet….

As you can see, there is something missing between the bottom of the first column on page 11 and the top of the second. I went through the original files, and it appears that all of the various proofed versions my team checked have the correct wordage, but during the process to create a final booklet file with rearranged “imposed” pages for printing the line got dropped by the layout program I use, Adobe InDesign. It seems like one of those strange once-in-a-blue-moon quirks that happens when pages have to be reordered — each column gets locked down as-is instead of being allowed to flow into the next column, and on page 11 this time the program erroneously judged that the last line of the column didn’t fit in the space provided and so dropped it. Very strange, but one gets used to that when pushing computers to their limits. I made a slight tweak to the imposer file, and all future purchases of V3n12 will have the proper line reading intact.

For those of you with V3n12 already in-house, here is how the passage should read, with the added text enclosed in brackets:

One of the most characteristic of the epic devices is the epic listing or catalogue, often featuring the names — typically highfalutin’ or exotic or both — of the different armies or tribes making up the fighting [assemblage on either side of a pitched battle. As in] the divertissement — the long and elaborate suite of dances in a full-length classical ballet….

In the past Don Herron has patiently explained to this typing monkey the concept of “points” in collecting, how little errors such as this — called “points” — help collectors determine the various collectible states of a book. So consider those missing ten words a big-ass point, and hence your flawed copy of The Cimmerian ever-so-slightly more collectible. Or send your flawed copy back to me, and I’ll send you a corrected one free of charge. Your choice.

Points. Yet another way The Cimmerian is striving to give you more (of everything!) than the competition.

2007 WFC ballots out

It’s time for all those who attended the World Fantasy Convention last year in Austin to once again cast your votes for the World Fantasy Awards. As you may know, anyone who popped for a membership last year gets to also vote for the next two years, even if they don’t buy any further memberships. So all of you guys who purchased Associate Memberships last year just to vote can do so again. I received my ballot in the mail today, so most of you likely have as well. If not, you can e-mail your vote to Rodger Turner, and he will verify your name against the registration lists for the last two cons.

Although we Howardists were shut out of the winner’s circle last year, hope springs eternal. So if you feel TC did a decent job in 2006, do me a favor and cast your vote in the SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT: NON-PROFESSIONAL category for “Leo Grin, The Cimmerian.” It would be nice to show up once again at the gates to the Ivory Tower and raise a barbaric ruckus.

And as you are filling out your ballots, don’t forget to renominate Glenn Lord for Lifetime Achievement. Everyone is pretty much in agreement that slighting Glenn in the year that REH was the theme of the convention was the one unforgivable action of last year’s judges’ panel. So let’s get his name back on their radar, too.

I don’t really have strong opinions about the other categories, but for Best Novel you could do worse than to nominate Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow by the late David Gemmell. He probably won’t win as the prejudice against Gemmell and similar fantasy authors seemed pretty strong among the WFC faithful (whether they’ve actually read a single word he’s written is another story), but it would be nice to see him nominated at least. That would be yet another shot across the bow of those who would deny the continued existence and relevance of Sword-and-Sorcery in the fantasy field. It’s not just a bunch of insipid Tolkien clones — there is good work being done.

And hey, for Best Artist why not nominate “Dalmazio Frau, a.k.a. Dalmatius” who drew over thirty pieces of Howardian art last year to make The Cimmerian‘s third volume a special one? I don’t think illustrating so many different Howard stories in a single year has ever been done before. Fantasy, horror, boxing, westers — he did it all.

Slipcases Slippin’ Away


Well, it was bound to happen. After about nine months on the market, the fifty slipcases each made for Volume 1 and Volume 2 are just about gone forever. I only have a single slipcase left for each year. $40 per, grab ’em while you can. There’s been a bit of a run on them over the past few weeks, I’m not sure why. Perhaps a few people finally realized that it was now or never, and that they might as well splurge a bit for a nice home for their Cimmerians.

As for the Volume 3 slipcases, they might go real fast after they appear. Subscribers who specified they wanted slipcases each year don’t have to worry — they’ll get their slipcase. Non-subscribers who want one should pre-order to reserve their case. Pre-order information will be posted sometime over the next few weeks. I anticipate the V3 slipcases being slightly more expensive that the older ones owing to their bigger size, but we’ll see.

Those who missed out on both the Deluxe issues and the Slipcases — and want to catch up — there’s still one option for you. Go to the Slipcases page and scroll down to the bottom, and you will see some Deluxe “Complete Sets” advertised. These are complete sets of Deluxe issues for those years, including the out-of-print ones, along with a slipcase for that year. The price tag on these is rising as more issues go out of print and as the slipcases sell out. So if you are toying with the thought of such a purchase, best do it sooner than later.

After three years, certain parts of the backlog are becoming scarce. What will the next generation think of all this when they come barreling on the scene someday? There hasn’t been any selling of Deluxe issues on eBay to speak of, so no one seems to be getting rid of the ones they have, even those folks who stopped reading TC long ago for whatever reason and have issues to dump. Once some of the Limiteds go out of print, making it impossible to read those issues in any format, it should drive the new fans nuts. I know if I were just entering REH fandom and wanted to read all of that material, it would be a real tough pill to swallow.

The Vultures


There are many wonderful benefits to editing The Cimmerian. Meeting new fans, discovering new things about Howard, establishing a community of individuals who share a vision about how an REH journal should look and read and feel. These are all good, and they’ve brought me no small amount of joy over the last three years.

One thing I dislike about the experience, though, is brushing up against guys I call Opportunistic Collectors. These (inevitably well-heeled) fans e-mail me once a year, usually in a few terse sentences devoid of grammar, with the goal of feeling me out about adding TC to their collections on the cheap. They usually start out by damning with faint praise — “gee young whippersnapper, looks like u been busy!” — before trying to loosen me up with a few choice insults — “even tho your print run is too small to be taken seriously, and u overcharge for what in the end are just crappy Xeroxed fanzines” — before finally making a pitch to scam a set on the cheap — “but hey, even though they wouldn’t normally be worth my time or money, if u give me a big bulk discount, I’ll do you a favor and take a pile off your hands. Let’s deal, hey?”

Perhaps this is just how self-absorbed collectors operate, I don’t know. I’m not a collector, never have been. My entire Howard “collection” consists of a cache of books taking up about three feet of bookshelf. No mylar bags, no ultraviolet glass, no dust-proof cabinets, no temperature-controlled vaults in the basement. When I created The Cimmerian, I got some input from collectors I respect, and strove to make the journal collector-friendly in various ways: numbered issues, different states, finite print runs, good materials, extra features like the Index issue and Slipcases. But all that is for them, it doesn’t thrill me at all. My interest is in good content, making a journal to be read, not just tagged and bagged and stored.

I marvel at the stories of hardcore collectors snatching up everything Howard because they feel the need to keep their inventory complete, even though they read very little of what they buy. I know people whose collections take up every available square inch of their houses, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on every wall and in every closet — and who still need to stick hundreds of additional boxes into storage facilities. That’s tens of thousands of items that they will likely never see again before they die, much less read. Blows my mind. I guess in my most crazed, greedy, obsessive-compulsive moments I can understand the mentality on some remote level, but for the most part it’s utterly foreign to me, like trying to imagine how a chair would look if your knees bent the other way. I tend to give stuff away with abandon, just to get it out of the room so I can breathe better.

Which brings me back to the Vultures. Whenever they rear their ugly little heads in my In-box, I always marvel a bit at what I’m hearing. The way I see it, if you don’t like REH enough to pay what really is a pretty reasonable price these days, then why bother trying to buy TC at all? Aren’t these the same guys who regularly fork out $100 for pissant little chapbooks or barely-legible mimeoed fanzines? And now these same guys think $15 is too much for foil-stamped covers, parchment paper, and scrupulously edited content? What do they think, that the price on this stuff is actually going to go down as the years drift by? How dumb is that?

My standard answer to such requests is “Sorry, but I don’t give discounts — it would be unfair to those loyal readers who have paid full price and supported the journal for the last three years.” This never fails to rouse righteous indignation, and they fire back with a version of “U just made a bad business decision, bucko. I was all ready to give u a charity buy, but forget it now.” It’s hard to express just how ridiculous I find this attitude to be. What the hell — I’m supposed to cave in to some rude stranger insulting me, giving him a much better price than my most loyal readers just to make a few extra pazoors? Screw that noise. The Cimmerian ALREADY makes all the money it needs to, as-is. I’m not a millionaire, true — but unlike most fan publications I’m able to pay all of my bills, pay all of my contributors, and have some left over to finance next year’s art or next year’s slipcases. The point is, I’m in no rush to get rid of the issues I haven’t sold. I’d like more readers, sure — who wouldn’t? But in a financial sense, I don’t need them. If the Vultures think, for example, that those fifty copies of V1n1 still sitting in my archives are burning holes in my pockets, they’re mistaken.

I fully expect to sell out all my issues sooner or later, but just to make it clear for the Vultures who simply cannot fathom such a thing, let me tell you what’s going to happen to any issues I don’t sell. They’re not going to be remaindered to a bookstore or online seller, and they’re not going to be marked down on my website until the Vultures pick them off. Eventually, if I get sick of having them around and offering them as back issues, I’m just going to burn them. Every last one of ’em. Then I’ll simply figure out how many issues are left out there in the Real World, and I’ll post those numbers for the edification of all involved. Loyal Readers will be the only ones left with copies. After that, whenever a Johnnie-come-lately wants to trick out his Howard collection with a pile of “Xeroxed zines” (they aren’t Xeroxed, of course, but we’ll humor them), they’ll have to come to YOU. And as fellow collectors (and far savvier ones, judging by your decision to subscribe to TC from the beginning) they won’t be getting them on the cheap.

The bottom line is this: you readers who have stuck with me from the beginning, subscribing every month at a premium, will always be the ones who got the best deal. That’s my promise. As for the Vultures, circling around the battlefield waiting for some Cimmerian carrion, they’re going to end up looking like turkeys. Gobble-gobble.