Archive for June, 2015

This year at Howard Days, I talked to a couple of people about my obsession with the minutia of Robert E. Howard’s life. While I am a firm believer that the more we know, the clearer the picture of the writer from Cross Plains will become, I still think some of the things that intrigue me are pretty far out in left field. But the folks I talked to said that they found these things interesting, too, and that I should keep on keeping on. Well, I’ve got a few things lined up that may change their minds. Read on, if you dare.

When I first became interested in Howard’s life he seemed to be characterized as kind of a lone nut, with only a couple of friends over in Brownwood and maybe one or two more in Cross Plains. But when you start digging, others emerge. Without mentioning any female companionship (we’ll get to that at a later time), Howard had more friends than just Clyde Smith, Truett Vinson, Dave Lee, and Lindsey Tyson.

Reading Howard’s correspondence and autobiographical writings reveals other friends, including Aud “Slue Foot” Cross, Winfred Brigner, and Ottie Gill, not to mention Harold Preece and E. Hoffmann Price who both visited Cross Plains on more than one occasion. The de Camp papers at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin contain interviews with other Howard pals like Austin Newton, Leroy Butler, and Tom Ray Wilson. Even Howard’s hometown newspaper, the Cross Plains Review, has items of interest like this one from July 25, 1924: “Earl Baker of Ballinger visited Robert Howard last week.” (Baker was a buddy from the Burkett days.) These were all people who came in and out of Howard’s life, friends of circumstance like we all have from time to time, while our core group remains somewhat stable. To this list we should add Ray Adams.

Not too long ago Patrice Louinet sent me a clipping from the November 16, 1923 edition of the Cross Plains Review:

1923 11-16 REH in CPR

One little clipping, and a question: did I know anything about Ray Adams. At the time, I’d never even heard of him, now I know more than anyone outside of his family needs to know. I’ll share the relevant bits here.

Alton Ray Adams was born in Eastland County, Texas, on October 11, 1905, the first child of William and Fannie. His father was a farmer. Sometime after the 1910 enumeration of the U.S. Census but before the end of the year 1919, the Adams family had moved to Cross Plains and gained two more members: Kermit and Bonnie. And if they hadn’t met earlier, Ray Adams and Robert E. Howard would have bumped into each other at the Methodist Church on Christmas Eve 1919 where they are both on the program giving readings, as reported on December 26.

1919 12-26 REH in CPR

Presumably, Adams attended school in Cross Plains and, since he was just a few months older, may have had classes with Robert E. Howard, whose family had moved to Cross Plains in 1919. If they attended school together, they don’t appear to have been in the same class: Adams is not listed with Howard in the graduating class of 1922 that appeared in the paper. But he is one of the young men, along with Howard, mentioned in the following July 28, 1922 item:

1922 07-28 REH in CPR

After the radio experiment, Robert E. Howard went off to Brownwood for another year of high school. Ray Adams moved back to Eastland County, Cisco to be precise. But the two appear to have been good enough friends that they tried to stay in touch. When Howard returned to Cross Plains in 1923, Adams visited at least once, as the clip at the head of this post indicates.

How long the pair remained friends is a mystery. Like many school friendships, it may have simply dwindled away, or perhaps they became pen pals, though I haven’t found reference to Adams in Howard’s surviving correspondence. Whatever the case, sometime before the death of his father, W. M. Adams in June 1934, Ray had moved to Montana. He died there in 1942.

1934 06-29 Family info in CPR(From the June 29, 1934 Cross Plains Review)

 

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It’s been said that Howard Days only keeps getting better, and this year was certainly no exception.  It was a laid-back event seemingly enjoyed by all.  The turnout appeared to be about average, but extra local attendees packed the banquet tables.  The weather was clement and, though it was hot, it wasn’t extremely so.  It even rained late Saturday.  The spring rains had greened up the foliage, but unfortunately had driven so many snakes out of the ground that the Saturday evening barbecue had to be moved from the Caddo Peak Ranch to the Pavilion.  The Middleton family couldn’t be present, but it was nice that they continued their generous contribution to our event.

After the bus tour of Burkett and Cross Cut, the first Friday panel was held, as they all were, at the CP Library, where REHupan Ben Friberg videotaped them for posting on Youtube.  In keeping with the Howard/Lovecraft theme celebrating HPL’s 125th birthday this year, the panel “Conan vs. Cthulhu” featured REHupans Mark Finn and Jeff Shanks and short-story writer Scott Cupp.

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As Finn explained, REH and HPL were longtime friends and correspondents.  Lovecraft especially was a prolific letter writer, penning over 100,000 letters to many correspondents, most of whom were of a very literary, erudite bent.  This correspondence preserves much of what we know of both men.  These exchanges were more beneficial to Howard because they helped him perfect his craft.  Their letters seem almost schizoid in nature, first because they seemed to follow two interweaving tracks, one answering the other’s previous letter point by point, and second because their exchanges could at times be friendly and encouraging, relating experiences and sharing clippings and postcards, and at other times be strident and contentious as they debated issues of a social, historical, or political nature.

Shanks opined that HPL should have paid more attention to REH’s suggestions and example, though they may have led him to insert some action in his “The Shadow over Innsmouth.”  They discussed concepts, entities, and backstory from their tales, even injecting references to them in their stories (such as REH’s reference to HPL’s Yog-Sothoth), making them cutting-edge pioneers in the now common art of crossover appearances and shared universes.  Cupp noted that each enjoyed writing about their native areas, which resulted in viewpoints that might be conflicting, but were always insightful.  Shanks cited a primary example of this being Howard’s stories “The Children of the Night” and “The Black Stone,” riffing off Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos stories.  Finn added that “Stone” is widely considered to be the best CM story not written by HPL.  Prior to writing it, REH had been talking about the drift and spread of mythic concepts in his letters.  Both men had gotten their ideas about Little People from anthropologist Margaret Murray and author Arthur Machen.  Lovecraft took this in the direction of regression toward fish-like creatures, while Howard employed it in portraying devolution of Picts and Turanians into savages, as in “Children.”  This type of theory is outdated now, but it had some scientific basis then.  The science behind these ideas fascinated them both.

REH did not write many Cthulhoid stories, recognizing it not to be his forte, but did include references to the CM in a lot of his tales, such as “The Tower of Elephant,” “Xuthal of the Dusk,” “A Witch Shall Be Born,” “The Scarlet Citadel,” “The Vale of Lost Women,” and “The Valley of the Worm.”  In “Men of the Shadows,” REH’s Lemurians descended from fish-men that he might have read about in HPL’s “Dagon.”  If so, this would be Lovecraft’s earliest influence on Howard.  HPL and REH name-dropped Tsathoggua into stories after first seeing it in a tale CAS had sent them prior to publication.  Shanks said that Howard owned Otto Augustus Wall’s book Sex and Sex Worship (Phallic Worship), using information from it in “Stone” and using it as the partial inspiration for his fictional book, Justin Geoffrey’s Unausspechlichen Kulten, much as Lovecraft had done with Abdul Alhazred’s Necronomicon.  REH may have been the first to write stories about Lovecraft’s fictional works like “The Call of Cthulhu” as if it were actual reality, which is common practice now.

Regarding the two authors’ famous barbarism vs civilization debate, Finn thinks it is significant that HPL lacked the frame of reference that REH had on the Western frontier, and so derided Howard’s views on such matters as the trampling on personal rights by policemen, as occurs in “The God in the Bowl.”  REH did send that typescript to HPL, and apparently even wrote “Pigeons from Hell” as a kind of answer to and parody of the latter’s New England horror fiction, showing that the South could be just as scary a setting for a horror story. As an advisor to the creators of the new Monolith Conan role-playing game, Shanks has been incorporating CM-related (as well as Clark Ashton Smith-related) ideas into it.  Howard added the sexual dimension to CM toad-like deities like Tsathoggua.  An audience member pointed out that recent updates by critics Kevin O’Brien and Bobby Derie have made the CM much sexier than it originally was.

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Guest of Honor Mark Schultz was spotlighted in the second panel and of course later at the banquet.  He illustrated Wandering Star’s and Del Rey’s first volume of the Complete Conan, while other artists did the other volumes.  Schultz welcomed this, since each had his own interpretation of Conan, none being definitive.  He found art director Marcelo Anciano great to work with, in part because Anciano had a clear idea of what he wanted and provided a formal pattern for it.  Schultz has been drawing since childhood, starting with dinosaurs, then Tarzan, and finally Howard, whom he found was much deeper than Burroughs.  Schultz has always been fascinated with the fact that REH and HPL were dealing with the transition from the supernatural to the scientific.  Schultz first studied at Kutztown State University.  Then he went into comics because he liked illustrating stories, being an admirer of illustrators like Pyle, Wyeth, Cornwell, Frazetta, Williamson, and Wood.

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Schultz’s first comics were the Xenozoic series, which he will be going back to in a new book.  For 10 years, he has been the primary writer on the Prince Valiant comic strip.  He wonders if Prince Valiant was inspired by Howard, though they may have been influenced by the same sources.  Schultz admits he is a slow, analytical worker and that a really productive artist would better know when to stop.  He finds it easy to adopt REH because the author is so sparse but dead-on in his descriptions.  In order to avoid Howard’s anachronisms, though, Schultz prefers to depict ancient, rather than medieval, armaments and forces.  The pulp artist he admires most is Hugh Rankin because of his moody, horrific interpretations, rather than focusing on musculature or action.  Schultz studies his intended subjects, but mainly goes with what is most effective dramatically.  He is careful to be as realistic and convincing as possible before he adds a fantastic element, much as REH did in his fiction.  His favorite comic artist is Wally Wood.

In his eloquent banquet speech, Schultz said he likes to illustrate science fact as well as science fiction and fantasy.  He really responds to the storytelling, adventure, atmosphere, weight of deep time, command of language, and personalization in Howard’s tales.  REH was using genres and tropes from old European fiction, while injecting his own dedication to individualism and love of freedom, making his stories far more layered and textured than one would expect from genre fiction.  Howard chose his descriptive words carefully and economically, which Schultz regards as a mark of true genius.  He has two new books coming out this summer: Portfolio and Storms at Sea.

Following presentation of the Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards, which has been covered elsewhere, there was a bus trip to REH’s grave in Brownwood’s Greenleaf Cemetery.

Scott Cupp’s wife made the interesting point that the Cross Plains Post Office has not been abolished, as so many rural post offices have been, because of the extra business provided by the REH Days pictorial cancellations and the mailing out of so many REH Foundation books.

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During the traditional Fists at the Ice House talk Friday night, Finn, Gruber, and Shanks read parts of humorous Costigan and serious Kid Allison stories, as well as Howard’s historical commentary.  They then read boxing poems, even one in which Finn adopted the voice of Mohammed Ali.  They talked about REH’s motivations in writing his boxing stories, which were doubtless based in part on his personal experiences boxing with his friends at the CP ice house, not to mention his extensive knowledge of boxing history.  Afterward, many attendees went to the Pavilion to recite poetry or just talk.

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The first Saturday panel was on the A Means to Freedom collection of Howard’s and Lovecraft’s letters to each another.  REHupan Rusty Burke noted that only REH’s letters survive, HPL’s letters having been accidentally burned by Dr. Howard in the early 1940s. Fortunately, Arkham House publisher August Derleth had transcribed the latter earlier.  The text of all the correspondence in the books was checked by David Schultz, while Burke and Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi did the research and annotations.  Burke said that HPL and REH were very different individuals.  Lovecraft affected an 18th-century New England gentleman, while Howard was proud of his Southwestern heritage.  Unlike HPL, REH was quick to take offense.  Panelist Jonas Prida remarked on the schizoid character of their correspondence and that each related their own life experiences regardless of whether they thought the other was actually interested in them.  Panelist Dierk Guenther said that Howard is an extremely unreliable informant, so at any one time it is difficult to tell if he is being serious or making fun of Lovecraft, which makes reading the correspondence interesting but frustrating.  Burke observed that they encouraged each other’s interests and efforts, but said it was so akin to goading that the two probably would not have maintained their friendship if they had ever met.  Prida added that they were very concerned, not only with the craft of writing, but how each could make a living as a writer.

Guenther said that REH was obviously very proud of being from Texas and was very knowledgeable about its history and culture.  Aside from “Vultures of Whapeton,” Guenther isn’t impressed with Howard’s straight westerns.  Asked if REH would have continued with westerns or returned to fantasy had he lived, Burke opined that it would probably have depended on sales, but thought he would have done more weird westerns like “Nekht Semerkeht.”  Prida said that, hard as it was to do (HPL couldn’t), Howard could bridge genres so as to appeal to another market if he couldn’t sell to a particular pulp.  As to whether they respected one another, Burke stated that their attitudes developed with time.  REH started out very deferential, but progressively became more argumentative and sarcastic.  HPL recognized the other’s skill, but thought his stories were too bloody and commercial.  In their political discussions, Lovecraft expressed admiration for Fascism as it preserved social order and favored mechanization as leading to a better, less toilsome life.  Howard strongly disagreed, prizing individual freedom and accomplishment.  Thus, they were diametrically opposed to one another regarding the relative importance of society vs. the individual.  As far as seeing themselves as literary figures, Burke said that HPL did so to some extent, though a lot of that was a pose, while REH knew what fiction was good and popular, but was more concerned with commercial success than literary recognition.  Guenther added that Howard did regard himself as a pioneer in regional writing.

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REHupan Bill Cavalier introduced the Saturday panel on Fantasy Gaming by saying that, after starting to play Dungeons & Dragons in 1978 because it allowed him to be Conan, he discovered that REH had had more influence on the creation of D & D than any other author, as he confirmed with its creators Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.  Panelist Shanks explained that there have been several Conan role-playing and video games over the years, as well as the board game Age of Conan, but all these incorporated pastiche material and none had a Howardian feel.  Panelist and REHupan Patrice Louinet recently became an advisor to a French effort by Monolith Games to produce a Conan board game because he is an REH purist and wanted to make sure the game would be true to its source material, which he also wanted to promote the reading of.  The project involves the best designers available.  The Kickstarter campaign has raised $3.3 million, the largest amount ever pledged for a board game.  The game will debut at GenCon 2015 in July/August.

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Shanks became advisor to Modiphius Games’ effort to create a Conan role-playing game because previous versions by TSR, GURPS, and Mongoose had incorporated pastiche material, and Modiphius wanted to return to the original pulp stories.  Shanks piqued their interest by describing Howard as “Burroughs meets Lovecraft.”  The Kickstarter support promises to be huge.  Shanks got them to call it Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed of.  He then enlisted Finn as a writer.  Panelist Finn said that they will produce supplement books for different phases of Conan’s life, each with different settings and rules.  Shanks got Louinet to help as an advisor and he himself is serving as art director.  Shanks will be able to select the artists, who will include Schultz, Kelly, Sanjulian, Truman, Giorello, and many others.  Finn added that they all got involved in these gaming projects because of the opportunity to pull in new Howard readers, while removing pastiche material.  Some content will have to be invented, but it will be kept as Howardian as possible.

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Topping off the Saturday presentations was an interview of brothers Brad and Jeff Howard, whose great-grandfather was Dr. Howard’s brother, and Brad’s daughter Amanda.  They brought and displayed their Family Bible, which was published in 1857 and lists many ancestors going back to 1837, including REH and his parents, though it is not complete.  The book should give us significantly more information about the Howard family.  The Howards also brought their copy (only the 13th known) of the Jenkins 1937 edition of A Gent from Bear Creek, though it is in poor condition.  Louinet had first contacted the family in the course of his research into REH’s genealogy.

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And for the final icing on the cake, Louinet — who has been researching Howard’s family history tirelessly for years — discovered three photos of Howard with the Butler children, who lived next door to the Howards, playing pirates, along with a photo of Hester and Patch. These have already appeared online. However, Louinet did not have the originals. Joe Henderson, son of the Butler’s daughter, came to Cross Plains on Saturday and brought the originals of the four photos, plus four more and presented them as a gift to Louinet. The four additional photos, three of which have never been seen before, include two featuring the Butler kids with Howard, the famous photo of Howard drinking out of a giant beer schooner and a photo of the Butler house with the Howard house in the background.

And so came to an end another unique and rewarding Howard Days celebration.

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Photos courtesy of Russell Andrew, Rusty Burke, Rob Roehm, Jeff Shanks, Todd Vick and others

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This afternoon the 2015 Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards ceremony was held at the Cross Plains Public Library. As in years past, the entertaining but crotchety duo of Rusty Burke and Bill Cavalier presided over the event. Here are the winners:

The Atlantean—Outstanding Achievement, Book By a Single Author:

Deke ParsonsJ.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard and the Birth of Modern Fantasy (McFarland 2014)

The Hyrkanian—Outstanding Achievement, Essay (Print)

Jeffrey Shanks – “What the Thak?: Anthropological Oddities in Howard’s Works.” REH: Two-Gun Raconteur No. 17, June 2014.

The Cimmerian—Outstanding Achievement, Essay (Online)

Rob Roehm – “The Legend of the Trunk (8 parts)” REH: Two-Gun Raconteur blog

The Aquilonian—Outstanding Achievement, Periodical

Damon SasserREH: Two-Gun Raconteur No. 17

The Venarium  Award—Emerging Scholar

Karen Joan Kohoutek – Contributed an essay to the TGR blog on Howard’s use of Voodoo.

The Stygian—Outstanding Achievement, Website

Damon Sasser, et al. – REH: Two-Gun Raconteur (Website and Blog)

The Black River Award—Special Achievement

Ed Chaczyk  – Organizing and promoting the online drive to raise money for repairs to the Robert E. Howard house.

The Rankin Award—Artistic Achievement in the depiction of REH’s life and/or work

Tom Gianni – Cover art for Fists of Iron, Round 3 (REHF Press)

The Black Circle Award—Lifetime Achievement (at least 20 years)

Karl Edward Wagner (posthumous)

Black Circle Award Nominee for next year’s ballot

Roy Thomas

Congratulations to all the winners and I want to thank everyone who voted for and support REH: Two-Gun Raconteur, both the print journal and the blog/website. My thanks also go out the many contributors to the blog and journal who make it all possible.

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In case you have not heard, Girasol Collectables is ceasing publication of its high-quality pulp replicas. Here is a post from Bill Thom’s Coming Attractions webpage on the end of an era.

That dreaded moment has come and the Girasol Pulp Replicas project is coming to a close.

We’ve stepped up production on the next three months of Replicas and we now have the final issues available to complete the sets of the Spider, Operator 5 and Terror Tales.

After this, no NEW Replicas will be added to the catalogue.

We will, for an as yet undetermined period, be keeping the existing catalogue available.

However, we may begin retiring the less-active Replicas at any time, so don’t delay if there are any you’re interested in!

Contact us before ordering large quantities to confirm availability.

For those of you accustomed to the monthly specials, you can still order that way if you prefer.

If you’re looking for individual titles, you can order them singly, or all together, whichever suits you best.

We’d like to thank everybody that has supported the project over the years, and we hope that the Replicas continue to provide reading and research enjoyment for years to come.

We do not anticipate taking on any other pulp reprint projects at this time and our Pulp Cover Gallery project is our only active item at present.

Girasol published a lot of replica issues of Weird Tales and other pulps Howard was published in. Their Weird Tales replicas included many of the Conan stories. So if you want to purchase some for the first time or get ones you are missing, now is the time before it is too late.

On the Howard Works website there is a complete list of everything published by Girasol Collectables with Howard fiction or poetry featured.

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Last Sunday fantasy and science fiction fandom lost one of its greats. Chuck Miller of Underwood-Miller Inc. publishing passed away as a result of multiple organ failure at the age of 62.

The publishing partnership of Chuck and Tim Underwood began in 1976 and ended in 1994. During those 18 years the pair won numerous accolades for their books and publications, including being nominated for the World Fantasy Award in publishing five times, winning once in 1994. Chuck and Tim Underwood received a Milford Award for lifetime achievement in publishing that same year.

In addition to his publishing endevours, Chuck was a well known bookseller in Pennsylvania and a frequent dealer at various East Coast science fiction conventions. In recent years, he authored a number of “new pulp” adventures for Pro Se Productions, including a series of books featuring “The Black Centipede” and a vampire/Sherlock Holmes adventure published last year called Moriarty, Lord of the Vampires.

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Back in the heady days of the 1970s Howard Boom, I came to know Chuck well and we corresponded quite frequently. He was a nice guy, always helpful and very generous. He sent me a review copy of the Howard book (Always Comes Evening) Underwood-Miller published and two chapbooks he published on his own (“Valley of the Lost” and “The Grey God Passes”). I recall Chuck sent me five copies of “The Grey God Passes,” all autographed by artist Walt Simonson, who illustrated the chapbook. Now that he is gone, I really regret losing touch with him.

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Here is Chuck’s obituary:

Charles F. “Chuck” Miller, Jr., 62, of York, PA died on Sunday at Lancaster General Hospital.

Born in Columbia, PA, he was the son of the late Charles F., Sr. and Janet Wickenheiser Miller. Chuck was an independent book dealer and publisher and published over 150 books. He was a World Fantasy Award Winner in publishing science fiction. He was also nominated for the Hugo Award in science fiction publishing. He was a Graduate of Lancaster Catholic High School Class of 1970 and a Graduate of Millersville University Class of 1975 with a Bachelor of Education Degree.

Surviving is a Son: Kevin C. husband of Julie Miller of West Hempfield Twp., Daughters: Kathy F. Miller of Middletown, PA and Debora wife of Abe Bachman of Mountville, PA. 5 Grandchildren: Victoria, Mitchel, Taylor, Allison and Kara and his Best Friend: John husband of Patti Hartman of East Hempfield Twp. He was predeceased by a Brother: Chub Hilliard.

There will be a Visitation with the Family at the Clyde W. Kraft Funeral Home, Inc., 519 Walnut St., Columbia, PA on Friday, May 29, 2015 from 10:00 am – 11:00 am followed by remarks made by family members. Private Interment will be in Mountville Cemetery. The family requests that flowers be omitted. Memorial Contributions in Chuck’s memory may be made to the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic, 223 N. Lime St., Lancaster, PA 17602.

While not active in fandom or publishing in recent years, Chuck certainly made his mark on fantasy and science fiction publishing and will be missed by his many fans, friends and family members.

Photo of Chuck Miller © Andrew I. Porter.
Cover scans courtesy of Terence McVicker.
This entry filed under Howard Fandom, Howard's Fiction, Howard's Poetry, News.