Let That Be Their Last Battlefield — Until The Next One

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Last weekend, hours before learning of the simultaneous Herron and Burke Black Circle inductions, I had occasion to look something up in the second zine I ever contributed to a REHupa Mailing: #135, back in October 1995. My offering shared Section One of the Mailing with not only a letter from L. Sprague de Camp (wherein he directed “Mr. Tompkins” to his “Barbarians I Have Known” article) but also Rusty Burke’s Seanchai #76, in which he returned from an absentee phase to find that “the state of his beloved REHupa” was “NOT GOOD” (The fall of 1995 was a Time of Troubles — no staplers went missing, but a good deal of perspective did — that almost culminated in a breakaway APA; imagine the Seventies absorption of the Hyperborian League, only in reverse).

Seanchai #76 makes for interesting reading in 2007. While de Camp is nowhere accused of pontiff-buggering, Rusty does have this to say in his Mailing comments to the Tritonian Ringbearer: “The only explanation I can think of for the quite substantial changes you made to [“The Frost Giant’s Daughter,” “The Black Stranger,” and “The God in the Bowl”] is that you thought they weren’t very well written and you could do better.” There’s an endearing outburst about Milius’ Wheel of Pain — “An utterly stupid conception. What the hell was the damned thing for? It didn’t appear to do anything” — and another about the Marvel Conan’s being “largely responsible for the popular misconception of Conan as a fur-clad hulk, and for making pimply-faced, snot-nosed, greasy-haired, whale-bellied subliterate adolescents think they’re Conan and/or REH fans.” Rusty didn’t know the half of it; as we’re now aware, Marvel’s non-Roy Thomas stories even made some of them into staunch supporters of the unsinkable armada that is the Nemedian navy, ready to burst into “Anchors Away” every time the state-of-the-art shipyards of Belverus and Numalia turn out another dreadnaught.

Most striking of all was this, after a denunciation of the incorporation of the post-Howardian bridging paragraph from the 1967 King Kull in the actual text of the 1978 Bantam and 1995 Baen versions of “Exile of Atlantis”: “Until some enterprising publisher decides to make me the editor of the definitive REH editions, such mistakes will continue to be propagated, no doubt.” Marcelo Anciano didn’t become a member of REHupa until months later, so Rusty can’t have already been in secret talks with the Wandering Star bibliomancer…Another comment that jumped out at my 2007 self was this, to James Van Hise: “I really don’t know why it’s so hard to get literate REH fans to write about his work. The comments I get from guys like Don Herron, Dick Tierney, etc., is that they’ve pretty much said what they have to say about REH and unless they were to suddenly get inspired, well, they’ve moved on.” One Barbaric Triumph, multiple articles, and one Doom of Hyboria later, it is clear that inspiration took its own sweet time, but did show up eventually.

Burke and Herron (Sequenced thusly the names sound too close to Burke and Hare for comfort, don’t they?) are now right where they belong. With Glenn Lord enjoying the emeritus lifestyle (and perhaps reflecting on how living longer is the best revenge where grande dames and their dismissive references to “truck drivers” are concerned), the two junior Black Circlers can get to work on stationery, T-shirts, podcasts, and maybe even a microbrewery. This was definitely the preferable outcome — had their rivalry continued vote after vote, they might have become the Howard Studies equivalent of the black/white guy and the white/black guy in the third season Classic Trek episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” locked in unending combat on an otherwise dead world.

Congratulations to Don and Rusty. But why was it spelled “Hyperborian” instead of “Hyperborean” back when the League and its REH/CAS agenda were around?