The Vultures

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There are many wonderful benefits to editing The Cimmerian. Meeting new fans, discovering new things about Howard, establishing a community of individuals who share a vision about how an REH journal should look and read and feel. These are all good, and they’ve brought me no small amount of joy over the last three years.

One thing I dislike about the experience, though, is brushing up against guys I call Opportunistic Collectors. These (inevitably well-heeled) fans e-mail me once a year, usually in a few terse sentences devoid of grammar, with the goal of feeling me out about adding TC to their collections on the cheap. They usually start out by damning with faint praise — “gee young whippersnapper, looks like u been busy!” — before trying to loosen me up with a few choice insults — “even tho your print run is too small to be taken seriously, and u overcharge for what in the end are just crappy Xeroxed fanzines” — before finally making a pitch to scam a set on the cheap — “but hey, even though they wouldn’t normally be worth my time or money, if u give me a big bulk discount, I’ll do you a favor and take a pile off your hands. Let’s deal, hey?”

Perhaps this is just how self-absorbed collectors operate, I don’t know. I’m not a collector, never have been. My entire Howard “collection” consists of a cache of books taking up about three feet of bookshelf. No mylar bags, no ultraviolet glass, no dust-proof cabinets, no temperature-controlled vaults in the basement. When I created The Cimmerian, I got some input from collectors I respect, and strove to make the journal collector-friendly in various ways: numbered issues, different states, finite print runs, good materials, extra features like the Index issue and Slipcases. But all that is for them, it doesn’t thrill me at all. My interest is in good content, making a journal to be read, not just tagged and bagged and stored.

I marvel at the stories of hardcore collectors snatching up everything Howard because they feel the need to keep their inventory complete, even though they read very little of what they buy. I know people whose collections take up every available square inch of their houses, with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on every wall and in every closet — and who still need to stick hundreds of additional boxes into storage facilities. That’s tens of thousands of items that they will likely never see again before they die, much less read. Blows my mind. I guess in my most crazed, greedy, obsessive-compulsive moments I can understand the mentality on some remote level, but for the most part it’s utterly foreign to me, like trying to imagine how a chair would look if your knees bent the other way. I tend to give stuff away with abandon, just to get it out of the room so I can breathe better.

Which brings me back to the Vultures. Whenever they rear their ugly little heads in my In-box, I always marvel a bit at what I’m hearing. The way I see it, if you don’t like REH enough to pay what really is a pretty reasonable price these days, then why bother trying to buy TC at all? Aren’t these the same guys who regularly fork out $100 for pissant little chapbooks or barely-legible mimeoed fanzines? And now these same guys think $15 is too much for foil-stamped covers, parchment paper, and scrupulously edited content? What do they think, that the price on this stuff is actually going to go down as the years drift by? How dumb is that?

My standard answer to such requests is “Sorry, but I don’t give discounts — it would be unfair to those loyal readers who have paid full price and supported the journal for the last three years.” This never fails to rouse righteous indignation, and they fire back with a version of “U just made a bad business decision, bucko. I was all ready to give u a charity buy, but forget it now.” It’s hard to express just how ridiculous I find this attitude to be. What the hell — I’m supposed to cave in to some rude stranger insulting me, giving him a much better price than my most loyal readers just to make a few extra pazoors? Screw that noise. The Cimmerian ALREADY makes all the money it needs to, as-is. I’m not a millionaire, true — but unlike most fan publications I’m able to pay all of my bills, pay all of my contributors, and have some left over to finance next year’s art or next year’s slipcases. The point is, I’m in no rush to get rid of the issues I haven’t sold. I’d like more readers, sure — who wouldn’t? But in a financial sense, I don’t need them. If the Vultures think, for example, that those fifty copies of V1n1 still sitting in my archives are burning holes in my pockets, they’re mistaken.

I fully expect to sell out all my issues sooner or later, but just to make it clear for the Vultures who simply cannot fathom such a thing, let me tell you what’s going to happen to any issues I don’t sell. They’re not going to be remaindered to a bookstore or online seller, and they’re not going to be marked down on my website until the Vultures pick them off. Eventually, if I get sick of having them around and offering them as back issues, I’m just going to burn them. Every last one of ’em. Then I’ll simply figure out how many issues are left out there in the Real World, and I’ll post those numbers for the edification of all involved. Loyal Readers will be the only ones left with copies. After that, whenever a Johnnie-come-lately wants to trick out his Howard collection with a pile of “Xeroxed zines” (they aren’t Xeroxed, of course, but we’ll humor them), they’ll have to come to YOU. And as fellow collectors (and far savvier ones, judging by your decision to subscribe to TC from the beginning) they won’t be getting them on the cheap.

The bottom line is this: you readers who have stuck with me from the beginning, subscribing every month at a premium, will always be the ones who got the best deal. That’s my promise. As for the Vultures, circling around the battlefield waiting for some Cimmerian carrion, they’re going to end up looking like turkeys. Gobble-gobble.