On April 19th, George H. Scithers (pictured above, circa 2001) passed away. On April 20th, Damon Sasser wrote a post for the REHupa blog summarizing Scithers’ accomplishments in the fantasy/sci-fi field. Damon did a fine job and I see no real need to write another eulogy as such. I do, however, want to acknowledge the debt I owe Mr. Scithers. He and Amra, the fanzine he edited, had a profound effect on my reading choices these past thirty years or so.
One day in spring several years ago, I was in Topeka, Kansas competing in my state’s spelling bee (I’d been suspended from school for three days earlier in the year; I like to maintain a certain balance in my activities). After I’d “spelled out” (or whatever the correct term might be) midway through the contest, my mother took me to a local mall as a sort of consolation prize. At the Waldenbooks therein, I found a copy of The Blade of Conan.
The Blade of Conan (as well as its companion volume, The Spell of Conan) was a collection of articles (along with some fiction and poetry) drawn from George Scithers’ Amra fanzine. It opened the eyes of my barely-teenaged self to a lot of fantasy fiction that I was unaware of. Eddison, Dunsany, Jack Vance, Fletcher Pratt, Cabell, Flaubert, Mundy, Rohmer: discussions of those authors and their works could be found between the Sanjulian covers of that pair of volumes. Some authors were utterly unknown to me aforetime, while others were mere names mentioned in passing elsewhere. In addition, articles about REH (as well as various hard-to-find pieces written by Howard) were provided by Glenn Lord. I read and reread those books cover to cover.
The Blade of Conan and The Spell of Conan would be the closest things I’d own to anything approaching “fantasy lit-crit” until I started college. By then, I’d hunted down many of the works I’d read about and had a fairly solid grounding in the history of the field of fantasy literature. I would have to say those two collections contributed pretty heavily to yours truly ending up on this fine website. My thanks to Mr. Scithers for that.