Time to Saddle Up, Howard Fans

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Maggie Van Ostrand

EDIT: Thanks to Howard fans coming together and forming a determined shieldwall, both Texas Escapes and Fandomania have made adjustments to Ms. Van Ostrand’s article. As [redacted] puts it: “Texas Escapes has pulled the article down and Fandomania has placed enough editorial padding between the piece and the site that there can be no doubt as to the veracity of the piece in question.” Van Ostrand has also apologised for not digging deeper into the research regarding Howard’s life. So, no need to email either site or Van Ostrand.

Also, readers of this blog entry should be aware that its sole purpose was to serve as a call to arms directed specifically at REH fans. In my opinion, its purpose has been served. In no way was it intended to be informative to the general public. Certain basic knowledge was assumed, since it was aimed entirely at active, informed REH fans, as the title should have indicated to any unwary reader. Uncomplimentary language was directed towards Ms. Van Ostrand. This is in no way an apology, simply a preface intended to inform readers of content.

— Deuce Richardson

*Note: All terms such as “harridan” or “virago” have been streamlined by the substitution of “liar” in this text. However, the individual reader can feel free to re-insert such terms.

Over on the website known as Fandomania, a woman named Maggie Van Ostrand has posted a blog entry entitled, “Was Conan Really a Fictional Character?” I think a better headline would be “Am I a Willfully Uninformed, Sensationalistic Old Liar?”

Van Ostrand’s “article” is quite possibly the most concentrated dose of misinformation and malicious speculation regarding the life of Robert E. Howard that I have ever read. You can forget Arnie Fenner. L. Sprague de Camp was a bit more moderate than Maggie, preferring to spread his lies, half-truths and fictionalizing about REH’s life over a greater number of pages. Apparently, unlike LSdC (her font of Howardian wisdom), Van Ostrand does not plan to make a career out of distorting the public’s perceptions of REH’s days on this mortal coil. This is her one shot at the Man From Cross Plains and she’s gonna make it count. Both barrels, baby.

Six sentences into her piece, ol’ Maggie lays this one on her readers: “Both of REH’s parents were beyond weird and there is no doubt they created Robert’s tortured mind.” This, and the sentences preceding, set the utterly sensationalistic tone for the entire wretched “article.” Van Ostrand’s purpose is not to inform her audience about a gifted writer. No, her obvious intent is to tell an entertaining story about some “crazy” guy from West Texas and his “beyond weird” parents, the truth be damned.

The whole catty screed is filled with flabbergasting wowsers and jaw-dropping fantastications from beginning to end. Old Mags very possibly reaches the absolute nadir of imbecilic guesswork when writing about Doc Howard’s thoughts regarding his new-born son. Maggie (to paraphrase Lovecraft), works herself into a grotesque, malignant saraband of fantastic speculation. This is the thought she puts into Isaac Mordecai Howard’s head: “Had his earth-born child come from the Gates of Hell with a Dark Lord watching over him?” Oh yeah, and she also also accuses Doc Howard of have a head of “excessive” black hair. I can’t make this stuff up, but Van Ostrand sure can.

Damon Sasser was the first Howardian to hit the crime scene. He informed ol’ Mags that her primary source material, De Camp’s Dark Valley Destiny, was outdated and long since debunked. Van Ostrand responded:

I stand by my article. If purists want to put an end to a book that one of Sasser’s own recommended sources says “remains the premiere Howard biography,” then why don’t you have a book burning and get rid of the books you disagree with? I’m done with this silliness.

Maggie’s “recommended source” is from a Gary Romeo piece that has been left up on the REHupa site in the interest of open intellectual discourse, not because anyone else agrees with it (except for Steve Allsup). I love how the Magster sets up a straw-man with her “book burning” quip. If such was the case, Gary’s pathetic defense of Dark Valley Destiny wouldn’t even be there for her to squint her beady eyes at. Her Magness then shows her commitment to the truth by flouncing out of her own blog.

[Gary Romeo, wherever you are, I hope you’re proud of yourself. I guess you and Allsup down at Firebase DeCamp can high-five each other now.]

Many excellent comments by stalwart Howard fans followed Maggie’s regal departure. I was impressed by “Lisa,” a Howard fan heretofore unknown to me.

I urge each and every REH fan to go to Fandomania, read the pertinent comments so we’re all on the same page, and then contact the editor of the site at jason@fandomania.com. Maggie the Crazed Liar has left the building. She cares not for your opinions and refuses to respond to your “purist” prattle. However, I’m sure that the editor is still checking his inbox. Fill that thing with righteous (but barbarically courteous) indignation. I think Maggie needs to move on or make an apology.

Lest my gentle readers think that Fandomania is the only site in the blogosphere where the Magginatrix has left her foul taint, be apprised of the fact that she is a contributing editor at Texas Escapes. Therein you can find posted a truncated version of her vile screed.

Texas Escapes seems like a nice enough website. Its mission statement involves exploring the people, places, history and architecture that make Texas what it is, especially small-town Texas. What I find painfully ironic is that those were Robert E. Howard’s selfsame, deeply-felt interests. Eighty years ago, REH could’ve been writing for TE.

Yet, the editors allowed some raddled and addled old liar to perpetrate this hatchet-job on one of Texas’ finest and most famed writers. To add insult to injury, they allow some carpetbagging scribbler from New York State to do so. That ol’ Mags would choose Dark Valley Destiny as her source does not surprise me. De Camp was a carpetbagging scribbler from NY himself. Were the editors of Texas Escapes even aware that a biography about the Texan Robert E. Howard was written by the Texan [redacted]? So much for being all about Texas.

Texas Escapes is a husband-and-wife enterprise. I implore every Texan REH fan to contact John and Kate Troesser at correction@texasescapes.com. Let them know how you feel about this character assassination inflicted upon one of Texas’ proudest sons. If you don’t receive a response or see an apology, feel free to find some other means of getting the word out and making your displeasure known.

If Jason Dorough or the Troessers ask where factual information can be found regarding the life of Robert E. Howard, tell ’em that there’s plenty to read right here.

Like I said, time to saddle up.

*I’d like to thank Damon Sasser for the heads-up as well as for the inspiration for this entry’s title (though I like to think that I would’ve come up with it on my own). Damon has posted his own most excellent response to Van Ostrand’s utterly unprovoked attack here.