Blogger of Mars

While civil rights leaders are justifiably outraged that Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s proclamation declaring April 2010 to be Confederate History Month in the state of Virginia fails to mention slavery, Martian science fiction fans are irked that the proclamation mentions famed General Robert E. Lee but does not mention legendary Captain Jack Carter of Virginia, a courageous Confederate cavalry officer who served the South in the War Between the States and who is better known as John Carter of Mars.

That’s the entry for April 7, 2010, which can be found at the web log, Marooned — Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror books on Mars. Helmed by the mononymous “Paul,” Marooned maintains an admirably Mars-centric focus as the blog post above amply demonstrates. Paul’s breadth of coverage and commentary is as vast as the dusty Martian sea-beds, ranging from suggestions that Rob Zombie should direct a remake of Mars Needs Women to news about the publication by Haffner of Edmond Hamilton’s The Magician of Mars. Of course, Leigh Brackett and ERB get regular shoutouts.

With all kinds of Martian-related fiction seeing print and the production of John Carter of Mars in high gear, Marooned is a much-needed clearing-house for newcomers (and old Martian hands) to check out cool updates on the Red Planet.

He watches from forbidden sites… *

For those heel-dragging Luddites who still see no use in social/business networking sites, I submit this member’s entry at LinkedIn. Whilst I would aver that some of the info presented on the LinkedIn page of His Sleepiness might smack of both bravado and bragadaccio (and it also displays a poor command of the English language; which is understandable, considering his foreign national status), the bottom line is that The Big C is a mover n’ shaker with an absolutely fanatical grass-roots movement behind him. His message, in a nutshell, is “Change.” Now that he’s begun to use the Interwebs in a strategic fashion, I really don’t see anything that can stop him. Log in (while there’s still time) and become wild and free.  The stars are right.

*My thanks to Metallica for the headline…

Another Frazetta Painting Up for Auction

Heritage Auction Galleries is handling the consignment of a Frazetta painting that is probably well-known to most Sword-and-Sorcery art devotees. Here’s the description from the website:

Warrior with Ball and Chain, Flashing Swords #1, paperback cover, 1973

Oil on board

23 x 19 in.

Signed lower right

This stirring, savage, and superb Frazetta masterwork, sometimes titled Warrior with Ball and Chain, first appeared on the cover of the sword and sorcery anthology edited by Lin Carter, Flashing Swords #1, Dell Books #2640, 1973.

One of the top Frazetta paintings in private hands, Warrior with Ball and Chain was purchased in the February 1993 Guernsey’s auction, and according to its listing there, is one of the largest Frazetta covers ever painted. Some aficionados feel his piece may have been originally created for the Lancer Conan series of the late sixties, but not used there, since the Conan figures of two of the Lancer covers are so similar to the Warrior.

A copy of the Flashing Swords #1 paperback is included with this lot.

(Continue reading this post)

McVicker Holding the Line on Conan 3

As mentioned a few weeks ago, bookseller (and REH fan) Terry McVicker is giving special consideration to readers of The Cimmerian in regard to the new deluxe edition of Conan of Cimmeria, Volume Three. Here’s an update from Terry:

CONAN 3 has just arrived and I am much relieved and delighted to inform “The Brotherhood” that the book is absolutely beautiful, and a perfect match for the previous two volumes – in all its states! Last call at the in-print price of $225 (California residents must add $18 Sales Tax, Shipping & Insurance included). I am not trying to intimidate anyone, but the book is nearly out-of-print and if you want a copy I will hold on Layaway for “Cimmerian” readers at $50, even if the book goes out-of-print.

As Mr. McVicker notes, time is running out. Anyone who wishes to complete their set better act now. As always, Terry can be reached here:

Terence A. McVicker, Rare Books
1745 W. Kenneth Road
Glendale, California 91201

Maliszewski’s Grognardia Turns Two

My, how time flies. It seems just the other day that I became aware of Grognardia, the fine site owned and operated by James Maliszewski. Suddenly, I find that Grognardia is celebrating its second anniversary and that the industrious Mr. M has cranked out thirteen hundred and nineteen posts in those seven hundred and thirty-one days. As a fellow bloviator, I can testify such is no mean feat.

As I’ve noted before, Grognardia is not just for those who enjoy old-school RPGs. James’ “Pulp Fantasy Library” series of reviews should be read by any fan of the sub-genre. His most recent review (and one of his best) looks at REH’s own “Dark” Agnes de Chastillon. You can see [redacted]’s comments below the review.

Happy birthday, Grognardia.

CRS and the Empire of Gold

In welcome news, TC just learned that Charles R. Saunders has a fresh blog entry posted at Drums of Nyumbani, his website. The title of this post is “The First Ghana.” Much like his article, “The Epoch of Kush,” this piece by Saunders explores the rich history of sub-Saharan Africa. Another similarity betwixt the two is that both were written during the ’70s by CRS for one of the fantasy/S&S fanzines that proliferated during that decade. Fear not, Saunders’ scholarship still holds up.

Mr. Saunders reveals the history of the first Ghana (modern-day Ghana shares little but a name with its namesake). Called Aoukar by its own people, the kingdom was given its common name by Arab chroniclers, who derived it from one of the titles of the Ghanaian ruler (a situation similar to the one in which the “Inca” empire received its name from the Spanish). Reaching its height in the eleventh century AD, Ghana was a veritable sub-Saharan Klondike, exporting gold to Europe and Asia. Such riches invited envy and aggression. Eventually, Ghana succumbed.

Medieval Ghana was very likely the source of the name which REH bestowed upon the “Ghanatas” seen in the unfinished Conan yarn referred to as “The Tombalku Fragment.” Serious students of Conan the Cimmerian might also recall that he wielded a “Ghanata knife” when infiltrating black-walled Khemi in The Hour of the Dragon. Clues left by REH point to the Hyborian Age Ghanatas being a tribe situated somewhere betwixt Stygia and Tombalku, and that said tribe had notable iron-working skills. All things considered, that matches up fairly well with the Ghanatas’ (probable) historical inspiration.

I’ve been studying sub-Saharan Africa for more than twenty-five years and CRS’ post still taught me a few things. As I stated earlier, Saunders’ scholarship (like his fiction) has stood the test of time.

More Remembrances of Tompk

The Cimmerian wasn’t the only site that paid tribute to the legacy of Steve Tompkins today.  Not by a long shot.

Damon Sasser had a post up bright and early this morning at his REH: Two-Gun Raconteur site entitled “One Year Gone, One Year Missed.”

Over at Jim & Ruth Keegan’s Two-Gun Blog, the two gave props to Mr. Tompkins in their essay, “Remembering Steve.”

This afternoon, Morgan Holmes reminisced about Tompk in “Corporate Deathburger” at the REHupa blog.

Finally, Mr. Sasser posted a fine wrap-up of the day’s testimonials with “Steve Tompkins: Tribute to a Fallen REHupan” at, fittingly enough, the REHupa blog.

Steve Tompkins was not forgotten.

Beat the Drum Slowly…

Robert E. Howard onced asked his friend, Tevis Clyde Smith, “What shall a man say when a friend has vanished behind the doors of Death? A mere tangle of barren words, only words.”

All of those who posted today, including myself, never met Steve Tompkins personally, though I got damned close in 2006. None of us would presume to say that Steve was our “friend.” However, without a doubt, we all respect his work and regret his absence.  

Are all words spoken in regard to the dearly-departed or much-admired then “barren”? Robert E. Howard seemed to think so when he wrote those lines and sent them to Smith in 1928. Certainly, eulogies and whatnot can never bring back the deceased. All the same, I believe it can be argued that such words keep ones since-passed-on alive in the hearts and minds of those left behind.

In the case of Steve Tompkins, the words he wove with such skill live on here at The Cimmerian and elsewhere. As the tributes below attest, his wit, word-craft and insight are well-remembered. There can be no question that his thoughts on a myriad of subjects have found fertile, not “barren,” ground.

(Continue reading this post)

The Ideal Reader: A Tribute to Steve Tompkins

Friend of The Cimmerian, Scott Oden, wanted to share his thoughts on Steve Tompkins with TC‘s readers. I think they are well worth sharing.
— Deuce Richardson

It has become something of a cliché to say that authors write for an audience of one. Clichéd, but nonetheless true. Most often, this singular audience is the author himself, but some also write for the enjoyment of another, for an individual they hold in esteem: a spouse or loved one, a friend, an old teacher. Sitting metaphorically at the author’s shoulder, this individual becomes their Ideal Reader — a person who, to quote Stephen King’s excellent On Writing, “at various points during the composition of a story, the writer is thinking, ‘I wonder what he/she will think when he/she reads this part?’ ”

Steve Tompkins was my Ideal Reader.

I never got the chance to actually meet Steve, nor were we correspondents. I knew him solely through his dense and erudite essays at The Cimmerian; essays filled with insights and deliciously turned phrases that often forced me to reach for my dictionary. From each one, I gleaned a little something about the kind of man Steve was: passionate, eloquent, and generous in both praise and criticism. The highest laurel I can lay upon his brow is to say that he was a world-class scholar of literature; as a writer in his notice, especially one newly published, that forged in me a desire to bring my best work forward.

I have two moments as a published author that I will never forget. One was hearing that my first novel, Men of Bronze, had earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly; the second was casually clicking the link from my blog to The Cimmerian blog and reading an essay wherein Steve Tompkins recommended my work. It was a heady moment, and I doubt he knew how much his approbation bolstered my self-confidence. I was a writer! And I knew it, by God, because Steve Tompkins said so!

In the end, the Fates decided to cut Steve’s life far too short. It is to my eternal regret that I didn’t take time to send Steve more than a cursory thank-you note; I regret I didn’t express how much I appreciated his kind words, and that his essays were like peripatetic sojourns into the dark heart of the fantastic. I regret I did not write faster, so he could have read The Lion of Cairo.

Most of all, I regret not letting Steve know he was my Ideal Reader.

— Scott Oden

DEUCE ADDS: The blog entries Steve wrote concerning Scott Oden’s novels can be found here and here.

Lupoff and Chabon Talk John Carter of Mars at ERBzine

Those TC readers who have bothered to check the links I’ve posted in my ERB-related entries probably already suspect that I hold Bill Hillman’s ERBzine website in high regard. Such suspicions would not be unfounded. Mr. Hillman hath builded a mighty temple to the Lord of Tarzana that hangs amidst the æther in erudite splendor. 

This last January, Bill presented to his readership a most excellent symposium betwixt two major Edgar Rice Burroughs fans: Richard Lupoff and Michael Chabon. Mr. Lupoff, a long-time Friend of The Cimmerian, authored the first serious look at ERB and his works, Master of Adventure, as well as editing ERB volumes for Canaveral Press. Michael Chabon (a past recipient of the Pulitzer Prize) is on record as being a fan of of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber. In his ERBzine interview (conducted by Lupoff), Chabon reveals his life-long love for the fiction of Burroughs.

(Continue reading this post)