Happy 101st

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As I finish packing the rest of the 2006 issues — international orders are on the way, domestics will ship within a day — we have arrived at the official end of the Centennial. January 22 marked Robert E. Howard’s one-hundred-and-first birthday. Readers of The Cimmerian know all about the controversy concerning that date, as explained in my “Birth and Death” (V3n1 — January 2006). How many of you used my instructions to procure your own official copy of REH’s birth certificate? That’s a pretty cool little gem that should be a part of any good Howard collection.

Those of you looking for some new Howard fixes in 2007 have a lot of choices. Last night I celebrated Howard’s birthday by reading Steve Tompkins’ thought-provoking introduction to Del Rey’s Kull — before Steve, had any of us ever considered the influence of World War I, Jazz Age flappers, and Macbeth on Howard’s Atlantean? And through him, on the history of Sword-and-Sorcery? I then relished re-reading the first two tales in  the book, “Exile in Atlantis” and “The Shadow Kingdom.” If you haven’t yet bought this Del Rey release, head on over to Amazon or your favorite local bookstore and snatch it up. I could do without the (in my opinion) terrible computer-originated line art, but the (also computer-originated) paintings are very nicely rendered and evocative, and having all of Kull in pure text and in one place is a real treat.

If poetry is your gig, then pop over to the REH Foundation website and pre-register for your copy of Rhymes of Salem Town and Other Poems. This is, I think, the single largest book of Howard poems ever published, many of them for the first time. Another place to read a lot of poetry is The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, soon to appear in three volumes from the Foundation. If you are one of the guys who spent countless hours absorbing the two slim volumes of Selected Letters from Necronomicon Press, this new set will knock your socks off. I consider it every bit the publishing achievement that Lovecraft’s five volumes of Selected Letters were back in the day. The vast amount of never-before-seen material found within will remain grist to the scholarship mill for decades, spurring people on to new insights about REH and serving as a base for all kinds of new discoveries about our favorite fantasist.

[redacted] edited the Collected Letters, and he has promised a full index to be released via Lulu Books or some other publisher. That will be a big help when navigating the set, and yet another reason why the Necro Press volumes will become obsolete. Until that is released, why not go to Lulu and grab Rob’s new REH book, Howard’s Haunts? Lots of additional Centennial information for those who can never get enough, plus pictures of a number of Howard-related sites that most fans have never seen.

If Howard’s Oriental and Crusader writings turn you on, consider purchasing the massively overpriced but also massively entertaining volume The Exotic Writings of Robert E. Howard from Canada’s Girasol books. This enormous book of stories, reproduced from the original pulps, will keep you reading for weeks. And if you’ve bought the Girasol Books and would like slipcases for them, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with Cimmerian SuperFan Doris Salley, who designed and commissioned some awhile back for herself and some fellow fans. Who knows, perhaps she can still set you up with one.

And it’s not too early to start making your Howard Days plans. Tentative highlights include a Thursday trip to Fort McKavett and Enchanted Rock State Park, which if you’ve never been to them is a must. We could also hit Clear Creek Cemetery, where Novalyne Price is buried. Barring any unforeseen obstacles, the Guest of Honor this year is Wandering Star/Del Rey artist Greg Manchess, so bring down your copies of The Conquering Sword of Conan for Greg to sign and doodle in. I’m going to try to hold a few less panels this year, and make them a bit less biographical and more story-and-character oriented, more “fun” for the general fan. I know I’m a bit burned out on the endless fighting and controversy concerning biographical matters, and want to reconnect with my original love for the work. We’ll see how it turns out — stay tuned for more Howard Days news as it becomes available.

This July will bring us the first of a two-volume Best of REH set from Del Rey. All restored texts, and fully illustrated by Cimmerian Award winners Jim and Ruth Keegan (they’ll need to setup a promotional website once the book appears to handle all the work offers). This will be the first major attempt at such a project since 1946’s Skull-Face and Others, meaning a set that you can send anyone to and say “If you want to try out Howard, read this.”

If biography is your thing, then why aren’t you reading Blood & Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard? It’s already out there changing common misconceptions about REH with people who thought the story began and ended with Dark Valley Destiny. The book’s author, [redacted], just opened a movie theater in the small town of Vernon, Texas — I can’t wait for the Howard film festival that’s sure to follow.

Having trouble keeping track of all of this stuff? Never fear, bibliographies are here. For the basic American biblio complete with numerous illustrations and biographical extras, get yourself a copy of Cimmerian contributor Leon Nielsen’s new book from McFarland. For a much more thorough, just-the facts compendium, including a poetry and letter index and a never-before-published REH story, hunt down The Neverending Hunt by REH Foundation Board Member Paul Herman and Cimmerian Black Circle chieftain Glenn Lord.

I’m probably forgetting a dozen other things, but you get the idea. Business is booming in Howardia. There’s never been a better time to be a fan, when Howardian riches were so abundant. I’m hoping that this year I can slow down just enough to be able to enjoy the view a bit more, and revel in all of this stuff.