More Star Roving

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Guest Blogger Fred Blosser adds his two cents to Steve’s recent post on The Star Rover.

FRED: I appreciate Steve’s tip of the hat in his posting today. The other guy who should be mentioned in regard to connecting the dots between The Star Rover and Howard was de Camp. I believe he was the first observer — at least, the first in print, via Dark Valley Destiny in 1983 — to remark on the similarities between The Star Rover and concepts in the Conan and James Allison stories.

With a little more luck and persistence, I might have beat Sprague to the punch by fifteen years, but to paraphrase Robert De Niro, I blew it.

I noticed the proto-Howard details in the London book when I first read it in 1968, and at that time, I asked Glenn if evidence existed that Howard had read the novel. Glenn supplied me with Howard’s “book that goes to my head like wine” comment, and I built on that in writing a college freshman English paper that I titled “Jack London and the Hyborian Age.” Before the fall semester was over that year, I revised the paper a bit and submitted it to Amra. Over Christmas break, I received a card from George Scithers accepting it for publication — but it never appeared, as far as I’m aware.

When I signed with Ted Dikty and FAX in 1976 to write a book about Howard’s weird fiction, I covered the Little People stories and salvaged a bit of “Jack London and the Hyborian Age,” particularly noting the references to Il-Marinen by both authors. I started writing my book in October 1976 and delivered the final portion of the manuscript to Dikty in February 1977. Dikty said he liked it, and sent me a galley of the first chapter to proofread, along with a xerox of artwork by Alex Nino that he said he’d use for the cover.

I proofed the galley and sent it back to Ted. Around this time, unfortunately for me, Ted decided to put my book on the back burner and first publish a big, expensive map of the Hyborian Age, along with his wife’s accompanying Gazetteer. I never heard from him again, and I presume the single galley chapter was the only one set in type. My book, like several other promised titles, never saw the light of day. (Not from FAX at least. One of the books that Dikty advertised as in the works, Glenn’s The Howard Collector anthology, later found a home at Ace.)

Looking around for something to submit to The Dark Man in the ’90s, I performed another salvage job and turned the unpublished section about the Little People stories into the article that Steve graciously mentioned. At that point, my product wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, since de Camp, in the meantime, had published his observations about Howard’s debt to The Star Rover in the background to the Allison stories, in the genesis of the Æsir and the Vanir, etc. But I’m glad that Steve seems to have liked it, and I was interested in how he picked up many, many other parallels that I hadn’t noticed.

I’ve seen a couple of new trade paperback editions of the London book in the past few years, including a moderately priced Modern Library version. I hope Steve’s article will prompt new fans to seek it out.

Steve adds: Drat. Had a survey of Howard’s weird fiction possessing the customary Blosserian seriousness of purpose appeared in 1977 or 1978, coinciding with Karl Edward Wagner’s game-changing forewords and afterwords to the Berkley Conans, that would have done a lot to improve the locust years that preceded The Dark Barbarian. I’ll have to file this one next to the history of heroic fantasy Leiber once intended to write on my Should-Have-Been Bookshelf.

Correction: Don Herron, far more knowledgeable about Fritz Leiber than are certain antipodean resurrection men I might mention, has informed me that Leiber hoped to tackle not just our favorite subgenre of fantasy but the whole genre, which leaves me yearning even more to read what was mostly never written.