Archive for the 'Howard Fandom' Category

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…indeed, a glance at the hieroglyphs by any reader of von Junzt’s horrible Nameless Cults would have established a linkage of unmistakable significance. At this period, however, the readers of that monstrous blasphemy were exceedingly few; copies having been incredibly scarce in the interval between the suppression of the original Düsseldorf edition (1839) and of the Bridewell translation (1845) and the publication of the expurgated reprint by the Golden Goblin Press in 1909.

- H.P. Lovecraft, “Out of the Aeons”

Alexis Ladeau had remained in France while his friend, the Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Junzt, went to England and Scotland. Early in 1821, Junzt rejoined Ladeau in Paris, where he studied the mad Yemeni poet Alhazred’s Necronomicon further. Afterwards Friedrich resumed his travels, accompanied by the Frenchman. Junzt not only had the title Freiherr, but with it a fortune which allowed him to do much as he pleased. Obsessed by his discoveries, Junzt would travel the world seeking evidence – or disproof – of the dreadful things he had learned.

Prinn’s De Vermis Mysteriis and the Comte d’Erlette’s Cultes Des Goules were among the first forbidden occult books Junzt read. His friend Ladeau referred him to these volumes when they were students. Neither book approached the Necronomicon in dreadful content, but they were shocking enough.

4-2zarono-gn1Soon after, Junzt met an older German contemporary, Herrmann Mülder (Lovecraft and Conover, Lovecraft at Last). Mülder was the source of indisputably unique material for the Dusseldorf scholar’s “Black Book.” Mülder revealed to Junzt a tome far, far rarer than those of Prinn or d’Erlette, rarer even than the Greek text of the Necronomicon – the fabled Ghorl Nigral.

Some, if not most, occult scholars doubt the Ghorl Nigral even exists. Very few have ever seen it, even in its singular and unique Deutsch translation, let alone the Naacal original. The Muvian codex is perhaps the oldest extant book on this planet.

Some traditions aver that the Crawling Chaos and Mighty Messenger of Azathoth, Nyarlathotep, presented the book to the sorcerers of Mu. The legend arose for a number of reasons. The Ghorl Nigral was certainly a product of highly advanced and unknown (to twentieth-century men) science. Its pages are leaves of unidentifiable, well-nigh indestructible pliant metal, its covers, plates of an equally unknown greenish mineral. Nyarlathotep may indeed have contributed to its content in some way. He was (and has been) known to instruct human beings in the making of strange, subtle mechanisms whose effect, in the end, is destructive. The Ghorl Nigral holds formulae for the latter – and, it appears from the practices of the monks of Yahlgan, certain hellish medical and surgical techniques (REH, “The Black Hound of Death”).

The continent of Mu is provably a part of the Howard Mythos (and, by extension, the Cthulhu Mythos). In “The Shadow Kingdom” Kull says, “The hills of Atlantis and Mu were isles of the sea when Valusia was young,” and in “A Song of the Race” a girl sings to Bran Mak Morn, “Mu is a myth of the western sea, Through halls of Atlantis the white sharks glide.” And Mu, it can be strongly inferred, was destroyed long before the Lemurian Archipelago and Atlantis foundered. Lovecraft and Smith referred to Mu regularly within their own weird tales.

4-3Prussian_hussarsHow Mülder obtained the Ghorl Nigral, came to show it to the Baron von Junzt, and what became of it – and him – afterwards, is a complex, obscure story. To begin with Mülder, he was born in Heidelberg, son of a minor Junker family. Unlike Junzt, he was a soldier and fighter by nature, a cavalry lieutenant in 1795 (Prittwitz’s Death’s Head Hussars, the 5th Regiment) and an excellent swordsman even by hussar standards. He served against Napoleon’s forces in the early 1800s.

Mülder’s family name has humble origins, if traced back far enough. Mülder is the German, literally, for “moulder,” a shaper of wooden bowls. Like Baker, Carter and Taylor in English, it derives from a plebeian trade. In the Prussian officer corps, surrounded by men of more ancient lineage named “von this” and “von that,” Mülder might well have been regarded as an upstart and treated with scorn.

4-4zarono-gn2Mülder would not have taken kindly to that. I picture him as looking as distinguished as any of his fellow officers – tall, blond, arrogant and ruthless, the archetypal Prussian warrior. His answer to gibes and condescension would have been to outdo his fellows in ferocious courage and cruelty. Mülder succeeded, won their respect, and even became a member of the secret (and aristocratic) Order of Wotan, which revered the ancient Germanic war-god and observed pagan rites. The Order was rumoured to offer its deity human sacrifices as the ancient Germans had done, by hanging and spearing, for victory in battle – the ultimate Prussian death-cult.

Mülder was disgusted by the state of the Prussian army at the time. Its humiliating defeats by the French in 1806 confirmed his view. He resigned his commission and – with the intense German respect for erudition – set about gaining a doctorate from Heidelberg. While student sabre duels were not yet the craze they later became, Herrmann Mülder carried scars from duels fought as a hussar, alongside those from wartime charges and melees. A ritual scar also crossed one eye, part of his initiation into the Order of Wotan.

Mülder, like Junzt, read Prinn’s De Vermis Mysteriis, and followed Prinn’s example by travelling east to Turkey. He was wholly aware that the Ottoman Empire had decayed from the splendour and conquests of Prinn’s day. Mülder found it soft and corrupt – and he also found a cult of Erlik in Istanbul. In pagan Turkic and Mongolian myth, Erlik is the god of evil, darkness, death and the underworld.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA number of Robert E. Howard’s yarns feature devotees of Erlik doing dark deeds, and Erlik has much in common with REH’s take on Odin, a “fiendish spirit of ice and frost and darkness” (TCotH). As Mülder was a member of Odin/Wotan’s death cult already, and familiar with the Turkish language, he would have found small difficulty gaining entry to the cult of Erlik. He also learned in Istanbul of Mount Erlik Khan and the city of Yolgan, situated in the Black Kirghiz country beyond Afghanistan. Howard describes it as “not like any other city in Asia … built long ago by a cult of devil worshippers … driven from their distant homeland … ” (REH, “The Daughter of Erlik Khan”).

The cultists of Mount Erlik Khan were without doubt more dreadful and primordial than their pale imitators in Istanbul. Mülder, a dreadful man himself, came to their hidden city and entered their cult. The monks of the ruling caste were “tall, shaven-headed men with Mongolian features.” (“The Daughter of Erlik Khan”).

The ancient “homeland” from which they had been driven – probably by power struggles within the order — was Inner Mongolia. Among its “black mountains” brooded an Erlikite citadel called Yahlgan. Yahlgan was incomparably more ancient than its offshoot, Yolgan. Its denizens were directly descended from the “Khari,” proto-Stygian enslavers of the Lemurian refugees after the Great Cataclysm.

The Khari monks were racially proud to an extreme degree. They and their Stygian cousins were slave-masters for millenia, as were their more distant cousins, the Imperial Atlanteans of Negari. The Erlikite priesthood of Yahlgan excluded any Lemurian/Hyrkanian admixture, even after so many eons. Yahlgan was a “last redoubt” which had withstood the millennia, and mingling with their former slaves would be the final admission of defeat. The irony was that — through the tutelage of Yahlgan — the Khari deity, “Nyarlak” (Nyarlathotep), had become “Erlik,” the war-god of the Hyrkanian (and later, Altaic) nomads who had long ago thrown off the Khari yoke.

In REH’s “The Black Hound of Death”, Erlikite monks transform their victim into something like a werewolf. The narrator says, “What unguessed masters of nameless science dwell in the black towers of Yahlgan I dare not dream, but surely black sorcery from the pits of Hell went into the remolding of that countenance.” That ancient order, devoted to death, corruption and evil, kept the original Ghorl Nigral, written on indestructible leaves of flexible metal, in their hidden citadel. They combined perverted surgical and biological science with sorcery.

4-6zarono-herrmann2Despite some uncertainties regarding details, Herrmann Mülder achieved, beyond any doubt, an astounding feat. He found Yahlgan, probably in the igneous Greater Khingan Range of Inner Mongolia. He became one of that hideous order – the first modern European to do so – stole the Ghorl Nigral from the citadel, and escaped with it. A priestess of Erlik (perhaps even the true “Daughter of Erlik” herself) assisted him in the remarkable theft. Mülder evidently seduced her and made her part of his scheme. However, far from being a mere dupe of his, she craved the power the Ghorl Nigral could give, and hoped to share it with Mülder — or betray him and have the book entirely to herself, free of the confines of Yahlgan.

In any event, the double-cross was Mülder’s. During their flight, he used her as a decoy to throw off pursuit, and then abandoned her. Later, still followed by the vengeful priests of Erlik, and knowing the penalties they would exact if they caught him, he came across a band of Turkomen tribesmen with a captive – a Zaporozhian Cossack. Mülder, desperate, attacked the band alone, and after shooting three, he slaughtered the rest with his sabre. He had not been one of the best blades in the Totenkopf Hussars for nothing.

Mulder had rescued the Cossack with a purpose in mind. The two rode hundreds of miles as only Cossacks and hussars ride, watching each other’s backs. The priests of Erlik followed them, relentlessly dogging their trail.

At last, almost overtaken near the Aral Sea, Mülder turned on his pursuers. According to Ladeau’s diary, Herrmann would never reveal to Junzt just how he escaped the Erlikite priests. In Gottfried Fvindvuf Mülder’s The Secret Mysteries of Asia, Herrmann’s cousin theorized that the Prussian sacrificed the Cossack in a ritual taken from the accursed pages of the Ghorl Nigral.

4-7MulderGhorlNigralTranslation_new4A_zps362bcd85By devious routes Herrmann Mulder returned at last to Germany with his prize. He met Junzt in the early 1820s, after the younger man’s visit to the British Isles. Mülder was then a few years past forty. Herrmann’s distant cousin, Gottfried (who later published Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten), made the introductions. Herrmann showed Junzt the Ghorl Nigral.

The stolen codex was written in the same hieroglyphs as the scroll in the Cabot Museum (HPL,”Out of the Aeons“). The Ghorl Nigral was the most ancient book on Earth, as well as the most dreadful. Mülder learned to read it in Yahlgan, making him the only westerner of his day able to do so. He translated it into German, but jealously guarded both the original and his translation, letting neither out of his sight.

Von Junzt, however, played upon Herrmann’s monstrous ego and was allowed to examine the original codex. The result was the “Ghatanathoa Passage” in Unaussprechlichen Kulten, which not only recounted T’yog’s ascent of Yaddith-Gho, but also included many Muvian “ideographs.” That knowledge would be vital to Junzt during his later Pacific voyage.

Mülder hoped he would be safe in Prussia, where he was a war hero, well born, and where Oriental strangers would be conspicuous. The latter fact did save his life again. When certain priests of Erlik appeared in Heidelberg, he was warned, and promptly fled to the U.S.A. with the Ghorl Nigral. Upon reaching Massachusetts, he left his translated copy in Arkham — for reasons unknown — and disappeared from the pages of history.

Images by Bryan “Zarono” Reagan and Others.

Read Part One, Part Two, Part Three

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I was a Robert E. Howard fan for about a year when I first came across Stephen Fabian’s work in one of the first hardcover collection of Howard’s stories I ever purchased. That book was The Vultures, published in 1973 by Fictioneer Press. I was totally blown away by Fabian’s art and immediately was on the lookout for more of his stuff. I soon found it in Cross Plains, REH: Lone Star Fictioneer, Fantasy Crossroads and The Howard Review, to name but a few. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a bad Fabian illustration. As far as I’m concerned, his unique style and quality are unsurpassed.

imageStephen Emil Fabian, Sr. was born in Garfield, New Jersey on January 3, 1930. He grew up in Passaic, New Jersey, graduating High School in 1949. At that time there was a mandatory draft going on in preparation for the anticipated Korean war and since Fabian did not want to go into the Army, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, signing up for 4 years. After basic training in Texas, Fabian attended the Radio and Radar Schools at Scott Air Force Base, Belleville, Illinois, completing both the general and the advanced radio and radar courses, he stayed on as an instructor.

In the early 1950s Fabian was 21 years old and teaching electronics courses in the U.S. Air Force. At that time he began buying and reading Amazing Stories, Galaxy and other science fiction magazines, being attracted to them by the beautiful Virgil Finlay covers and the wonderful story illustrations of Edd Cartier and others. He was also a huge fan of Hannes Bok. Fabian recalls thinking at the time, “I wish I could do that.”

Returning to civilian life in 1953, Fabian went to work for Dumont Television in East Paterson, New Jersey. In 1955 he got married and shortly thereafter, two sons, Andy and Stephen, Jr., were born. Soon Fabian established a lifelong friendship with Gerry de La Ree, fantasy bookseller and publisher:

Gerry de La Ree was the first person I met who was an insider in the science fiction and fantasy field. That was back in 1955 when he lived in River Edge, New Jersey and had a mail-order book and used magazine business and my first visit to his home was to buy some back issues of Fantastic Novels and Famous Fantastic Mysteries. Those issues featured the artwork of Virgil Finlay, Lawrence Sterne Stevens, and Hannes Bok, and I just had to have them; I was just starting to collect SF books and magazines. When I entered his home that first time it was like going from black and white to color and stepping into the Magical Land of Oz. All those beautiful paintings and all those wonderful books, all over the house, and all science fiction and fantasy! My sense of wonder was overflowing, and I could tell that Gerry could see it in my face, by the smile he had on his face. At that time I had just gotten married and was working as an electronic technician at the Dumont Television Lab in East Paterson, New Jersey, and if you told me then that one day I would become a munchkin in that Land of Oz, I would have laughed and said, “I wish!” Well, would you believe it, 20 years later, I actually did become a munchkin, turning out illustrations and cover paintings for science fiction books; magazines, fanzines, and I’ve been doing it for many years, in the Magical Land of Oz!

In 1958 Fabian went to work for the Curtiss Wright Electronics Division, also in East Paterson, which lasted for 5 years and in 1963 he was hired by Simmonds Precision Products, working in their Research and Development department. Most of the work at Simmonds involved military and aerospace contracts. When they moved to Vermont in 1965, Fabian and his family went with them. In 1974 things got so bad in those industries that his department was eliminated and Fabian lost his job. Not long after, Simmonds Precision was gone.

imageIn the mid-1960s when he had dreams of becoming a professional science fiction illustrator, Fabian was teaching himself to draw and paint. He purchased 5 art instruction books by the great illustrator, Andrew Loomis: Fun With a Pencil, Drawing the Head and Hands, Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth, 3-Dimensional Drawing and Creative Illustration. As practice, Fabian copied Loomis’ “Mermaid” painting from Creative Illustration and made lots of changes in order to be a little “creative” about it.

Steve’s first published artwork appeared in 1967 in the fanzine Twilight Zine, published by the MIT Science Fiction Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The editors placed an ad in a SF magazine that Fabian read soliciting artwork for their fanzine. He quickly worked up the courage to create a drawing and mail it to them. Fabian soon received a copy in the mail of Twilight Zine No.24, saw his drawing on the cover and was overjoyed. It was his first small step toward fulfilling his wish to become a professional SF illustrator.

Fabian kept refining his craft until his artwork gained widespread attention in the publishing world:

In 1974, I became free of the burden of having to “work for a living,” From the very first day that I lost my job at Simmonds Precision Products and came home to find two letters in the mail from professional magazines asking me to contribute artwork, I have never had to go out and solicit assignments from anyone. Every week, for years and years, I received phone calls or letters from paying fan magazine editors or professional publishers offering me work. I don’t know why this “miracle” happened to me, but it did.

On discovering Robert E. Howard, Fabian comments:

As I continued to work at my new career and art fans began to contact me wanting to buy my original artwork I soon learned that certain subjects were sure sellers; any drawing or painting I did that featured a well-endowed female or a unicorn, were sure sellers. There came a time when I thought, “Gee, why don’t I just draw and paint women and horses with horns, I can make a living just doing that!” And then along came the discovery of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories and he also became a “sure-seller” for me. Dozens of fanzine publishers asked me to do Conan drawings for them. I have enjoyed reading Howard’s “original” stories, and for giving me that enjoyment, I forgive him for hating Lincoln.

Around this time Fabian did a lot of work for a California publisher named George Hamilton. First his art was featured in Hamilton’s Howard fanzine Cross Plains, followed by artwork done for a number of REH chapbooks, including Blades for France, Isle of Pirate’s Doom, Shadow of the Hun, among others.

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Fabian does not have one favorite Howard piece, but believes he did some of his best Howard artwork on the “Queen of the Black Coast” portfolio published by Bortner & Kruse in 1976. I have to agree; the portfolio is stunning and true to the story.

In 1977 when Zebra Books was ready to publish a collection of Howard’s Dark Agnes de Chastillon yarns titled The Sword Woman, Fabian was commissioned to do the cover and a number of interior illustrations:

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When I received the manuscript for this job I was asked by the editor to do some preliminary sketches and bring them to their New York office. A few days later, when I got there, the editor introduced me to her very young assistant who led me to a small room and directed me to a table. On the table were paperback covers that had been removed from their books and laid out neatly in rows; there must have been about 30 or more of them, from various publishers other than Zebra. He pointed to them and said, “I don’t want anything that looks like this junk, I want you to do me artwork that will make a browser’s eyes in a bookstore pop out when he sees your cover and reach out and grab it!” I leaned over to get a closer look at the artwork on some of the covers and I recognized a couple of Jeff Jones covers, another by Frazetta, one by Kelly Freas, and it occurred to me that this table was filled with paperback covers painted by the best artists in the field! Before I responded, I reminded myself that I was in the Land of Oz now, I was not back in Vermont at my old job in the Research and Development department at Simmonds Precision Products trying to convince my boss that resistors R25 and R28 in the Torque Indicator square-wave circuit need to be .5% wire-wound precision resistors in order to make the indicator meet specs. Like many of the characters I read about in science fiction stories over the years, I had taken a step…into another world.

When I returned and showed my preliminary sketches to the assistant editor, he was shocked to see the “sword woman” wearing a wide-brimmed feathered hat, dressed in pantaloons and swinging an épée. “No, No, No” he uttered, “We want her in a steel helmet, wearing armor, and swinging a broadsword, like Conan the Conqueror! This is Robert E. Howard here, not the Three Musketeers!” “But,” I answered, “This is Howard’s version of the Musketeers, all the characters in the story use fencing swords and wear clothes like them. It is the time and place of the Musketeers.” He ran out of the room and came back a few minutes later. “We don’t care,” he said, “we want all the characters looking like barbarians; we want the book to attract the Conan readers.” So that’s what I did, and there you are, anyone who reads this book no doubt thinks that I did not, since my drawings are all wrong in the details! In a way though, I did try to put a hint of the Musketeer look into the pictures.

Also, the editor was not concerned with the cover artwork being faithful to the story, she wanted the book to attract “Conan readers,” and insisted I make my artwork reflect Howard’s barbarian age stories, and suggested the scene that appears on the cover. When I brought the finished painting to the office, the editor thought the sword woman’s breasts were a bit too small so I took it home and made them larger. This time they were a bit too large. I got them “perfect” the third time around. As I rode back home on the bus watching the city streets go by, my thoughts turned to Vermont, my old job, and how much I missed all those “problems” I had to deal with in the lab, the drafting department, the assembly department, the machine shop. Geez, I was thinking of them as “the good old days!”

Fabian would eventually find a use for those preliminary “Sword Woman” sketches. Years later he finished the drawings and sold them to art collectors whenever they phoned to ask if him if he had some Howard artwork for sale.

Fabian also did a great deal of artwork for Cryptic Publications. Most of their chapbooks featured Howard stories:

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Editor and publisher Robert Price had a lot of fun coming up with titles for his fan publications. During the 1980s he probably produced nearly 100 titles before he stopped doing them. They were priced from $3.00 to $4.50. each with print runs of perhaps 500 copies. Now, they show up on eBay occasionally, with starting prices at $175 and higher. And to think that Bob not only paid me for the cover art, he gave me 5 complimentary copies of each title, which I gladly turned around and handed out to my friends with my compliments. So let’s see…if I had held onto those free copies I would have over 100 of them, and if I put them on eBay…. Oh well, when I was a kid I also gave away my copies of the first issue of Action Comics, Batman, Superman, I had them all! What I did not have was the smarts to know that someday they would be worth thousands of dollars, each! I know, you’re going to tell me that after all the intervening years I’m still smart-less, giving away all those Robert Price fanzines.

Some more recent work done by Fabian was for the covers of Wildside’s ten volume collection, The Weird Works of Robert E. Howard, which brought his artwork into the computer age, as he explains:

The computer allows me to do something unique now with my artwork; I can take a part of one picture, combine it with another, change the colors, the sizes, play with the composition and create a whole new painting. Sometimes I use a painting that I did just as a palate to start a new painting, the former painting gets completely obliterated after a while as the new painting begins to take shape. The computer monitor is now my art palette, my old paintings are my tubes of paint, and the mouse is my stock of brushes.

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Fabian is well respected in his field and has fans all over the world. In 2006 he was a recipient of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. Fabian was also twice nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist (1970 and 1971), and is a seven-time nominee for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist (1975-1981).

He is still going strong at age 85, creating new masterworks of fantasy illustration, making new fans and awing a new generation with his immense talent.

Visit Stephen Fabian’s website for hundreds of examples of his art and the story behind each illustration. You can also purchase a number of signed portfolios of his artwork directly from him at reasonable prices.

 Artwork appearing on this page is © Copyright by Stephen Fabian. All rights reserved.

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The 15th annual Windy City is just two months away, running from April 15th through April 17th. In addition to celebrating their 15th anniversary, Windy City will be marking the 125th anniversary of the birth of H.P. Lovecraft.

Here are the details.

Memberships: Memberships are only $35 for all three days, $25 for Friday only, $25 for Saturday only, and $10 for Sunday only. Windy City is also offering Early Bird Admission for non-dealers for $60, which is a three day membership which allows entry to the dealer room on Friday at 10 a.m. (which is one hour after dealer setup begins and two hours before the con generally opens to the public). Ages 13 and under are free. Please note Windy City can now accept payments online through PayPal.

2015-windycityProgram Book:

All attendees will receive a program book, containing pulp articles and reprints. To advertise in the program book, rates are: full page ads $70 (4 1/8″ x 6.75″), half page $40 (4 1/8″ x 3 3/8″), business card size $25 (3.25″ x 2″). The deadline for submitting and paying for ads is March 5, 2015. Please contact Tom Roberts for ad and other program book matters (other than payment).

Art Show:

Windy City will once again be hosting an art show displaying original pulp and paperback art, sponsored by Dan Zimmer and the fine folks at Illustration Magazine. If you have any art you’d like to make available for display in the art show, please contact the organizers. The art show hours will be posted to the website when they are set.

Auctions:

There will be two auctions, Friday (from the estate of Jerry Weist) and Saturday nights.

Pulp Film Fest:

The Pulp Film Fest shows old movies based on pulp stories. More info, including the schedule, will be posted on the website closer to the con. The Pulp Film Fest is organized by Ed Hulse and sponsored by Blood ‘N’ Thunder magazine.

Con Suite:

The con suite will operate from Thursday night (so that you can pick up your badges and program materials) until late Saturday night/early Sunday morning — stop by and grab a drink, some munchies and meet other attendees.

westin-lombard-yorktown-centerHotel:

For the eighth year in a row Windy City is at the Westin Lombard, in the Western suburbs of Chicago. The Westin is located about 20 minutes Southwest of O’Hare Airport and about a half hour West of Midway Airport. Room rates are $113 per night (to get the con rate, you must book by 5:00 p.m. Central time on March 26, 2015). Parking is free. The hotel is in the midst of a shopping and restaurant corridor — it’s adjacent (within walking distance) to Yorktown Mall and about a mile from Oak Brook Shopping Center. For those with families, it’s also only 7 miles from the Brookfield Zoo, one of the nation’s top zoos. Movie theaters are also a short walk away. And if you like to gamble, the Aurora River Boat is about 10 miles away. If you are flying in and not renting a car, you can contact the hotel for details on various cab companies and shuttle services that offer fixed price transportation to and from the hotel. Please mention the con when booking rooms.

For more details and updates visit Windy City’s website and Facebook page. It is always a great convention and there is always a good sized contingent of Howard fans who attend each year.

IMG_0001Lauren D. Chouinard, without boasting, states in the preface to his biography of Kid Lavigne, Muscle and Mayhem:  The Saginaw Kid and the Fistic World of the 1890s, that he “just may be the world’s foremost authority on” this legendary boxer.  A seemingly bold statement, but Chouinard, a cousin to Lavigne, steps into the ring and proves this assertion by delivering a knockout of a book.

It’s a thorough history of the Kid’s career, and nothing is left out—from the battle with Andy Bowen to Lavigne’s battles with the bottle, it’s all here and always told in an interesting and entertaining manner.

While the information on the Saginaw Kid provides excitement, the author also, as the title implies, gives us an overview of the “fistic world of the 1890s.”  This includes the aforementioned Andy Bowen, who died following his match with Lavigne, to such renowned and legendary fighters as Young Griffo, who, on his best days could be almost impossible to hit, and Joe Walcott, who once knocked down Sailor Tom Sharkey during a sparring match.  Also much welcome was the section dealing with Mysterious Billy Smith, a character who, for those researching him, can prove to be a little tough to lay a glove on.

Chouinard’s book is blessed with many photographs, and this alone makes the book worth buying—Robert E. Howard fans should be overjoyed to be able to put a face to some of the pugilists the Texan mentions in his letters.

Mr Chouinard  forever endears himself to Howard readers by his inclusion of the poem “Kid Lavigne is Dead” and he mentions the pulp author with respect.  So if you’re a Howard fan you need this biography to help you understand the boxing world that so enthralled REH, and if you’re one of those collectors who need to have every Howardian appearance in your library, it’s a must-buy just for the sake of Howard’s fistic poem.

Chouinard’s book packs a solid punch—truly much bang for your buck.

IMGWhen John D. Haefele won the Venarium Award for emerging scholar for the 2007 Cimmerian Awards, I knew he was destined for great things—I mean, I was also nominated that year and he had beaten me, so this guy had to be good, right?

Well, the new, revised trade paperback edition of Haefele’s A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos:  Origins of the “Cthulhu Mythos” shows that the confidence the Cimmerian Awards voters had in this particular Howard fan was not misplaced.  As a founding participant in the birth of the Cthulhu Mythos, Howard is mentioned quite often in Haefele’s book, always respectfully, something which should make readers of this blog very happy.

Fittingly, this book is the first volume published by the Cimmerian Press, which should cause shouts of joy in Howard fandom.  Leo Grin’s journal The Cimmerian was a Golden Age for fans and scholars of our favorite Heroic Fantasy author.  At that time Howard studies was an enjoyable field of endeavor, with the essays being not only informative but entertaining to read—something lacking in much of the literary criticism lately, with titles that strive to be pretentious, and essayists who are not at all familiar with the work of those dedicated individuals who toiled earlier, in some cases before these new “scholars” were even born.

Readers of A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos will see that Haefele is indeed a scholar, putting in years of work on a book which can only enrich the writing and publishing heritage of August Derleth and force people to throw away their Joshi-tinted glasses and re-evaluate their opinions of the Sac Prairie Sage.  Fans of Robert E. Howard need to realize that August Derleth was indispensable in the history of REH, publishing the first hardcover collection of Howard’s weird fiction, Skull-Face and Others, and in 1957 printed, with much help and financial backing from Glenn Lord, Always Comes Evening, a book Haefele describes as “iconic.”

What is probably not so well known is that ten years earlier Arkham House had included a sampling of Howard’s verse in Dark of the Moon, which also included a poem by no less than Robert Frost, putting our pulp author in some pretty high company.

So, just in time for Halloween, appears John D. Haefele’s A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos.  A hefty, 510 page book that, at less than twenty dollars, will give you much bang for your buck. Run, don’t walk, over to Amazon.

REHPreecexmascard-crop-sm

At Howard Days this year, Dennis McHaney brought along a copy of Skull-Face and Others and the Howard-signed Christmas card posted above, both of which had once belonged to Lenore Preece. There aren’t any markings on the reverse of the card, no postmark or address, so it was probably included with a letter or submission to the Junto, circa December 1929. Perhaps later. These items were on loan to McHaney thanks to a former neighbor of Lenore’s, Brian Clifford. He wrote the following:

STATEMENT FROM BRIAN CLIFFORD, FRIEND OF LENORE PREECE—JUNE 12, 2014

I met Honey Lenore Preece in the spring of 1994, when she was living on Avenue F in Hyde Park in Austin.

I’m a native Texan, but I’ve spent a lot of my life traveling in other states and countries, and during one return home, I was staying with a neighbor of Lenore’s. She caught my attention one afternoon as she was puttering around her porch. Something about her intrigued me. Not the least of which was that some of her neighbors called her The Cat Lady, and I have a soft spot for animal lovers, eccentrics, and elderly people who live on their own and who seem to be just fine with that.  I walked over, and we struck up a conversation. That conversation quickly evolved into a very close friendship that would continue over the next four years, until she died on December 7, 1998.

Lenore and I had a great rapport, that’s the only way I can describe it. During my visits back to Austin, where I had spent important chunks of my youth, we would pass the afternoons together talking about old Austin, old Texas, and the way society had changed since she was a girl. She was particularly pleased to show me her books and ephemera collections, and I often went to the grocery store or ran errands for her; I also brought her back small tokens from my vagabonding. The entire time I knew Lenore, she rarely mentioned family, and to my knowledge, she never had family members check on her. This always worried me and it saddened me greatly.

One particularly special encounter with Lenore was in 1996, after I had finished fixing up my fire-engine-red  ’67 GTO. When I rumbled into her driveway, she came to her front door, admiring the car. I asked if she’d like to take a drive out to Lake Travis. Surprisingly, she agreed. This was only one of a handful of times I saw Lenore leave her house. She piled in, and we took off to Travis. When I asked her when she’d last been to the lake, she thought for a moment and said, “Oh, sometime right after World War II …”  50 years! On the way back to town, she asked that we try to find the old Preece Family Cemetery off 2222, but we never could. (I found it after she died—it’s on Vaught Ranch Road.) On another occasion, I convinced Lenore to venture out to the Omelettry off Burnet Road. We had a great time.

During the years I knew Lenore, I fretted over her health; I thought of her frequently while I was on my travels. I sent her post cards, and she occasionally wrote me in care of my mother in Houston.  Whenever I hit Austin, she was always the first person I would go see.

The last few times I saw my friend, I’d become increasingly concerned about her physical health, her mobility. On one of those occasions when I returned to visit, I found her house empty. I learned from the police that she’d fallen and broken her hip and had been taken to a nursing facility in Northwest Austin. I managed to locate her. I went to see her several times before she died, which sadly happened when I was in Europe in late 1998. She was buried at a pauper’s cemetery in Austin, instead of at the family cemetery. This fact has always perplexed me, because I assumed that someone in her family would have been notified.  More than that, it haunted me, and it still does. I’d like to see her laid to rest in her proper place, somehow.

Over these past 16 years, I’ve held the memory of this exceptional Texas poet very close to my heart.  I still think of her often, and I have lugged from city to city and country to country many of the items Lenore gave me during our four-year friendship—cards, books, little mementos from her house, her life. Over the time we were friends, she frequently gave me items that she treasured and didn’t want to see tossed when she passed away. I still have some beautiful antique lace handkerchiefs, some hand-embroidered linens and table throws, some vintage crockery and china serving platters, several antique and collectible books, and her scrapbook, which I retrieved from the abandoned house after she died. What remained in her home on Avenue F was put out on the curb or thrown away.

So, whatever Howard letters or issues of The Junto which might have remained with Lenore, if any, are in a land-fill in Travis County. We are lucky, however, that Mr. Clifford was able to retrieve Lenore’s scrapbook: It is there that the Christmas card was found. Also this photo of Lenore’s brother, Harold Preece:

1930 03-27 HaroldPreecefrom Lenore scrapbook-crop-sm

This is no doubt the same photo that Harold sent to Robert E. Howard, who, in a letter postmarked March 24, 1930, said “Thanks for the picture.” Also, in an early April letter, this: “I don’t know if I thanked you for the picture in my last letter. If I didn’t you can take it that I do now. It’s a good likeness of you.”

Many thanks to Mr. Clifford for sharing these items with us, and for being a friend to Ms. Preece at the end.

This entry filed under Harold Preece, Howard Biography, Howard Fandom.

The REHupa Barbarian Horde

Howard Days 2014 was another great success. Temperatures were quite moderate, though there was a hailstorm around Abilene that seriously damaged Chris Gruber’s car. There were many new faces there this year, evidently because of increased promotion on social media sites spearheaded by Jeff Shanks.

IMG_2928dThe theme this year was Howard History: Texas and Beyond. During the first panel, “In the Guise of Fiction,” Shanks and Al Harron discussed REH’s use of early history. Shanks said that Howard’s stories utilized the anthropological theory favored at the time, involving racial templates now known to pseudoscientific. REH was also inspired by Haggard and Burroughs, who were popular then. Harron opined that the Picts were Howard’s greatest creation, appearing in more different types of stories, both fantastic and historical, than any other of his creations. Historical fiction, e.g. by Mundy and Lamb, was quite popular. REH loved it and wrote as much as would sell, but he put a gritty, bloody spin on it that was more colorful and realistic than that of other authors. Shanks mentioned that Howard employed Wells’s The Outline of History and as many other authoritative references as he had access to. His first goal was to get into the adventure pulps, but he often had to add a weird element to sell his stories; this practice peaked with his submissions to Oriental Tales and Weird Tales. Harron said Conan incorporated historical and fantastic elements. Cormac Fitzgeoffrey is Harron’s favorite Crusades character. Shanks said that REH pioneered a dark, cynical, violent interpretation of history, which has made the stories age well and resonate with today’s readers, unlike a lot of other writers such as Doyle. But historical fiction requires a lot of research, so he set Kull and Conan in an earlier, hypothetical Hyborian Age that freed up Howard to write his own kind of fiction. Harron stated that “Shadow of the Vulture” starring Red Sonya was another groundbreaking character, being a strong female protagonist and warrior, with no romantic links to other characters. It was also anchored in historical characters and settings. Harron’s favorite female character is Dark Agnes, especially in “Sword Woman.” She is unique in having an origin story, though REH only able to get Red Sonya published. He and C. L. Moore conceived of their strong heroines independently. Shanks said that Howard was influenced in his historical fiction by Arthur Macon’s dark stories about fairies portrayed as malevolent little people. He said that REH did a lot of anthropological world-building, incorporating migrations which turned out to be very important historically, as we know now. Howard was also doing westerns, historical and weird, near the end. An audience member added that REH admired Jack London and may have just been emulating London’s racial theories, though these were somewhat behind anthropological theory of the time, however popular they were then. Another person pointed out how the race Howard regarded as superior changed with time and publishing venue.

10453434_10204295624973680_482758632251404194_nIn an interview by Rusty Burke, Guest of Honor Patrice Louinet said that he first got interested in REH through French translations of Marvel comics. He was the first to do pre-doctoral and doctoral theses based on Howard. He visited the U.S. to do the associated research, joined REHupa, and met legendary Howard scholar and collector Glenn Lord, who got him interested in examining REH’s typescripts of stories and letters. He found he could date transcripts from typewriter artifacts and REH’s idiosyncratic spellings. Burke also led him into looking at the Conan typescripts and recommended him to be editor of the Wandering Star Conan pure-text editions. The time-ordering of Howard’s stories is critical to understanding him as a writer, which is also why reading the Conan tales in the order they were written (as in the WS books) is so revelatory. Dating the transcripts was essential to determining which were the most authoritative versions to use in the pure-text books. Thus, there would be no de Campian Conan saga. REH used Conan as a catalyst to the plot and to tell the kind of story he wanted to tell. Louinet’s first professional publication was “The Birth of Conan” in The Dark Man. Reading Howard in English made him realize how bad the existing French translations were, so he started translating the stories himself. He thinks that Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright’s suggestions often improved REH’s stories. Louinet is now working on a documentary on REH and is a consultant on a Howard-related board game. He has done many interviews about REH, including ones on television. He won a Special Award from France’s Imaginales (Imaginary World) Convention for his Howard work. He has published 10 REH books in France and has another one coming out. In France, Howard was a cult figure in the ‘80s, was forgotten in the ‘90s, and is now popular and recognized as a pioneer fantasist. Lovecraft started becoming mainstream there in the ‘60s and has been helped by a Cthulhu video game. Clark Ashton Smith is unknown. The French do not like westerns. Working as a translator gave Louinet the most insight into REH’s maturation as a writer. Howard’s earlier work is bursting with ideas, but he later learned how to control that without losing anything. “The Dark Man” and “Kings of the Night” of 1930 are about when he became a mature writer. Louinet plans to do another doctoral dissertation on REH.

rsz_dscn0324The Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards were given to: (1) Jeff Shanks for the Outstanding Print Essay “History, Horror, and Heroic Fantasy: Robert E. Howard and the Creation of the Sword and Sorcery Subgenre”; (2) Bill Cavalier, Rob Roehm, and Paul Herman for the Outstanding Periodical The REH Foundation Newsletter; (3) Brian Leno, Patrice Louinet, Rob Roehm, Damon Sasser, and Keith Taylor for the Outstanding Web Site REH: Two-Gun Raconteur; (4) Rob Roehm for the Outstanding Online Essay “The Business”; (5) Patrick Burger as Emerging Scholar; (6) Ben Friberg for the Outstanding Achievement of filming REH Days panels, as he was doing for this event and selling DVDs of last year’s; (7) Tom Gianni for Artistic Achievement; (8) Patrice Louinet for Lifetime Achievement; and (9) Paul Herman for Outstanding Service. Karl Edward Wagner is next year’s nominee for Lifetime Achievement.

Read the rest of this entry »

EPSON MFP image

A third of the 200 copy print run of new issue of The Definitive Howard Journal sold in the five days since its publication this past Friday. Issue number 17, with its stellar line-up of rare Howard fiction, essays, articles, reviews and artwork is quickly being snapped up by hungry Robert E. Howard fans. So don’t procrastinate and be left on the field of battle with an empty scabbard, order your copy today!

REH: Two Gun Raconteur No. 17 Contents:

Front Cover: “…a fierce exultation swept her as she felt the edge cleave solid flesh and mortal bone.” From “Red Nails” by Michael L. Peters

Inside Front and Back Covers: Scenes From “Spears of Clontarf” by Stephen Fabian

Back Cover: Skull-Face by Terry Pavlet

“The Stones of Destiny” by Robert E. Howard, illustrated by Nathan Furman

“The Diabolical Blonde” by Rob Roehm, illustrated by Clayton Hinkle

“What the Thak?: Anthropological Oddities in Howard’s Works” by Jeffrey Shanks, illustrated by Clayton Hinkle

“Non Sequiturs Inside the Academy Gates” by Don Herron

“Robert E. Howard’s Heroes of the Desert: A Portfolio” by Bob Covington

“Robert E. Howard and Past Lives: Reincarnation, Dreams and Race Memories” by Barbara Barrett, illustrated by Richard Pace

“Apocalypse on the Liffey” by David Hardy, illustrated by Robert Sankner

“Ernest Hemingway, Robert E. Howard and Battling Siki: Typewriters and Fists” by Brian Leno, illustrated by Bill Cavalier

Price: $25.00, US postage paid.

To Order by Mail and Pay with Check or Money Order,
Send Your Order To:

Damon C. Sasser
6402 Gardenspring Brook Lane
Spring, TX 77379

(Please make checks or money orders payable to Damon C. Sasser.)

Order and Pay Via PayPal:

Patrice Louinet Getting The Black Circle Award

Well, it’s mid-afternoon in Cross Plains and the REH Foundation Awards have already been presented to the winners.  Originally the awards were known as The Cimmerian Awards and the black skulls on marble bases were handed out at the Pavilion after the Friday night banquet. When the awards became the REH Foundation Awards, the wooden plaques were given out at the Community Center immediately after the banquet and it was a somewhat rushed affair, with Howard fans wanting to go to the Pavilion and the locals bolting for the door, not having much interest in the awards. So it was decided to make the awards a bigger deal by having a less rushed and more formal ceremony on Friday afternoon at 2:30.

So without further waiting, here are the winners:

The HyrkanianOutstanding Achievement Print Essay:

Jeffrey Shanks – “History, Horror, and Heroic Fantasy: Robert E. Howard and the Creation of the Sword and Sorcery Subgenre,” Critical Insights: Pulp Fiction of the 1920s and 1930s.

The AquilonianOutstanding Achievement, Periodical:

The REH Foundation NewsletterBill Cavalier, Rob Roehm, Paul Herman.

The StygianOutstanding Achievement, Website:

Brian Leno, Patrice Louinet, Rob Roehm, Damon Sasser, Keith Taylor- REH: Two-Gun Raconteur (Website and Blog).

The CimmerianOutstanding Achievement for Online Essay:

Rob Roehm – “The Business” REH: Two-Gun Raconteur (13 parts).

The Venarium AwardEmerging Scholar:

Patrick Burger

The Black River AwardSpecial Achievement (The following nominees have produced something special that doesn’t fit into any other category: scholarly presentations, biographical discoveries, etc.):

Ben Friberg for filming the panels at Howard Days, editing them, and making them available on YouTube.

The Rankin AwardArtistic achievement in the depiction of REH’s life and/or work (Art must have made its first public published appearance in the previous calendar year.):

Tom Gianni for cover art for Pirate Adventures (REHFP), cover art for Fists of Iron, Round 1 (REHFP), cover art for Robert E. Howard’s Western Tales.

The Black Circle AwardLifetime Achievement:

Patrice Louinet

The Crom Award—Board of Directors Choice:

Paul Herman

Next Year’s Black Circle Award Nominee:

Karl Edward Wagner

Congratulations to the winners and remember, it is not too late for you to step up and find your name on the list next year!

IMGI’ve only been to Cross Plains three times but I’ve fallen under the spell of this historic little town.  It’s a place Robert E. Howard called home, and while I don’t live there whenever I visit I quickly feel like I belong. Perhaps this is due to the friendliness of the fans and the scholars; it’s great to discuss literature with people who share some of the same feelings I have for writers such as Howard, Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and others of the Weird Tales talent parade. But that’s not the whole story.

While my admiration for Howard has been a part of my life since I was about eleven, my obsession with Cross Plains clearly started on my second visit, in 2007.  During my first visit, in 1967, I stayed for only a few hours, but this second time I was there for days, and the town left a lasting impression.  I’ve been a collector of Howard since about 1966, but upon returning home in 2007 I also became a collector of all things Cross Plains.

Well, perhaps, not all things, but any item that has a little age to it will find a welcome place in my library.  I’ve travelled the Internet and picked up postcards which show the town as Howard must have known it—these are the coolest items and are becoming increasingly hard to find.  I even purchased a little wooden temperature gauge that proudly declares it comes from this Texan town—it no longer works but that really doesn’t matter.  To show the depth of my obsession I’ve even bought some old pencils that advertise Cross Plains.  Pencils, for God’s sake.

The latest item I picked up is a packet of letters written by a traveling salesman to his wife.  These epistles are all from the year 1921 and are pretty dry reading.  The salesman keeps telling his “sweetie” how much he misses her and that business is bad—he was evidently working for Firestone and the money was not exactly being raked in.

But the reason I bought these letters is because this Texas version of Willy Loman stayed in Cross Plains at the Kemper Hotel, and while there he availed himself of the hotel stationary, shown at top.  1921 is about the year Howard started reading Adventure—maybe when he stood in line to pay for his pulp this salesman was also there, picking up some reading material himself to help kill the time until he got back home, to the waiting arms of his “sweetie.”

At this time of year, for all of you heading to Cross Plains, it’s too bad the Kemper Hotel is no longer taking reservations.