Archive for the 'Howard Fandom' Category

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Here is the schedule of panels and events for this year’s Howard Days to be held in Cross Plains, Texas on June 10th and 11th.

Thursday, June 9th

The Robert E. Howard Museum & Gift Shop will be open from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. The adjacent Alla Ray Morris Pavilion is available all day for Howard Fellowship.

Friday, June 10th

NOTE: All panels on Friday to be held in the Cross Plains High School Library

8:30 until gone: Coffee and donuts served in the Alla Ray Morris Pavilion, compliments of Project Pride.

9:00 am to 4:00 pm: The Robert E. Howard House & Museum and Gift Shop are open to the public for viewing and tours.

9:00 am to 4:00 pm: The Cross Plains Post Office is open for REH Postal Cancellation souvenirs. Note: Friday only for this event.

9:00 am to 11:00 am: Bus Tour of Cross Plains and Surrounding Areas. Bus leaves at 9:00 am sharp from the Pavilion. Note: Friday only for this event.

9:00 am to 5 pm: Pavilion available for REH Swap Meet.

10:00 am to 5 pm: Cross Plains Public Library open to view REH manuscript collection.

11:00 am: PANEL: 30 Years of Howard Days. The origins and history of Howard Days will be discussed, along with a showing of photos from over the years. Rusty Burke, Bill Cavalier and Susan McNeel Childers of Cross Plains will tell their tales. Panel held at the Cross Plains High School Library.

12:00 Noon: Hot Dog Luncheon at the Pavilion. Sponsored by Project Pride.

1:30 pm PANEL: The Whole Wide World and One Who Walked Alone. Guest of Honor Michael Scott Myers will discuss the movie, the book and Novalyne Price Ellis, as interviewed by Mark Finn. Panel held at the Cross Plains High School Library.

2:30 pm: PANEL: Presentation of the Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards. Rusty Burke, Bill Cavalier and a cast of several. 30 minutes. Panel held at the Cross Plains High School Library.

3:15 pm TO 5:15 pm: Presentation of the feature length movie The Whole Wide World at the Cross Plains High School Auditorium, with commentary by Guest of Honor Michael Scott Myers.

5:30 pm to 6:30 pm: Silent Auctions items available for viewing and bidding at the Banquet site.

6:30 pm: The Robert E. Howard Celebration Banquet at the Cross Plains Community Center. The keynote speaker is Guest of Honor Michael Scott Myers. The title of his speech is “From Memoir to Screen.”

9:00 pm: PANEL: Fists at the Ice House. Mark Finn, Chris Gruber, Jeff Shanks and Patrice Louinet will entertain you with a spirited discussion of the Pugilistic Bob Howard, complete with readings from Howard’s boxing tales. Held on the actual site of the Ice House where Howard boxed, which is outdoors now on the concrete slab behind the Texas Taxidermy shop on Main Street.

Around 10:00 pm: Robert E. Howard Porchlight Poetry. Direct from the porch of the house where he wrote them, we will have extemporaneous readings of REH poetry. This event will be highlighted by a reading of “Cimmeria,” where Howard’s famous poem will be read in multiple languages.

Howard Fellowship will continue into the late hours at the Pavilion.

Saturday, June 11th

All panels on Saturday to be held at the Cross Plains Senior Center

9:00 am to 4:00 pm: The Robert E. Howard House & Museum and Gift Shop are open to the public for viewing and tours.

9:00 am to 4 pm: Cross Plains Barbarian Festival in Treadway Park, 3 blocks west of the Howard House on Highway 36.

9:00 am to 5 pm: Pavilion available for REH Swap Meet.

10:00 am to 3:00 pm: Cross Plains Public Library open to view REH manuscript collection.

11:00 am PANEL: REH and FRAZETTA: Celebrating the Fifty Year Legacy of the Lancers. Come hear a lively discussion about this benchmark event in Howard Publishing along with the importance of Frank Frazetta’s iconic cover paintings for the series. Panelists to include: Gary Romeo, Special Guest Val Mayerik, Jeff Shanks and Rusty Burke (with an opening monologue by Bill Cavalier). Panel held at the Cross Plains Senior Center.

12:00 Noon: Lunch at the Barbarian Festival or any restaurant in Cross Plains.

1:30 pm PANEL: The Life of Robert E. Howard – A discussion of Howard’s life, his working habits, his mannerisms, his routines, his quirks, his interests. We’ll talk about Howard the Man as opposed to Howard the Writer and also show some rare Howard artifacts (typescripts, photos etc.). Panelists to include: Mark Finn, Patrice Louinet, Chris Gruber and Paul Herman. Panel held at the Cross Plains Senior Center.

 2:30 pm PANEL: The First Annual Glenn Lord REH Symposium. A presentation by several REH scholars regarding Howard the Writer, with special essay readings by Daniel Look,  Jonas Prida, Todd Vick, Dierk Guenther. Moderator: Jeff Shanks. 90 minutes. Panel held at the Cross Plains Senior Center.

5:00 pm to 8 pm: Sunset Barbeque at the Pavilion. Hang out at the Howard House and enjoy a fully catered Texas BBQ dinner with all the fixins as part of your registration package.

Afterwards, we’ll  reflect on a wonderful weekend and enjoy our final Howard Fellowship time, which will include an encore presentation of a reading of “Cimmeria.”

For any changes or updates to the schedule, stay tuned to this blog, the Robert E. Howard Days Facebook page and the Robert E. Howard Days blog.

Over at You Tube there is a clip available of actor/comedian Joe Rogan giving a spirited defense of Robert E. Howard and Conan. The Fear Factor host gives a hyper-macho somewhat humorous speech about the greatness of REH and Conan. What makes this important to this article is his summary statement: “… you’d buy the paperbacks, with the Frank Frazetta oil paintings on the covers!  Holy Shit!  Those were books!”

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While fans can argue over his comments about REH’s sanity, you can’t argue with his conclusion. The Lancer paperbacks are totemic. They’ve become a distinctive and venerated symbol of sword and sorcery.

Let’s rehash the familiar story. REH died in 1936 and Conan seemed a goner as well. There was talk of other authors continuing the adventures of Conan but Farnsworth Wright put the kibosh on that idea.

The Conan stories remained uncollected except for a few that were reprinted in Arkham House’s Skull-face and Others. Derleth said jokingly, the complete stories would need to “printed on blood-colored paper.”

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Then publisher Martin Greenberg, whose reputation seems to be one of avoiding royalty payments to authors, along with longtime REH fan John D. Clark editing the first few volumes, began the Gnome Press editions. Author Fletcher Pratt gave a copy of Conan the Conqueror to L. Sprague de Camp. De Camp became an instant fan and took over the character for the next 40 years.

Gnome Press went out of business in 1962 and de Camp gambled on taking the books to another publisher. Legal wrangling between him and Greenberg came out in de Camp’s favor and Lancer editor Larry Shaw made the decision to start publishing Conan paperbacks.

Lancer Books existed from 1961 – 1973. Irwin Stein and Walter Zacharius were the men behind the curtain. Stein was a former magazine publisher who was betting paperback publishing was the better horse. Zacharius (also an author) was more the financial backer and when Lancer went bankrupt in 1973, he continued on with Zebra and Pinnacle Books.

Larry Shaw, a science fiction writer, was no stranger to SF/Fantasy fandom and publishing and was aware of Frazetta and Krenkel’s art for Ace Books and their successful Edgar Rice Burroughs’ line. According to Arnie Fenner, writing in Icon, Shaw was astute enough to offer Frazetta “twice the pay rate he was getting from Ace and a provision that the original art would be returned to him.”

According to Fenner, again from Icon, “Upon publication of the first cover, Conan the Adventurer in 1966, long-time friend and fellow illustrator Wallace Wood clapped Frank on the back and asked, “How’s it feel to be the world’s greatest cover artist?””

Conan the Adventuer

Conan the Adventurer sold well and was followed with more great Frazetta covers. Sometimes, it is said by the more Frazetta oriented fan, that his covers sold the books. It is, of course, axiomatic that an editor chooses art that sells books. Farnsworth Wright paid Margaret Brundage to sell Weird Tales, publishers paid Robert McGinnis to sell sexy thrillers, Bantam Books paid James Bama to sell Doc Savage and so on.

But REH’s fiction and the Conan character kept fans buying the books and turning them into million sellers. REH and Frazetta were the perfect combination. Other series with Frazetta covers did not sell as well and Frazetta’s own concepts like Death Dealer and Fire and Ice did not have the impact of Conan.

Did Lancer Books know that Frazetta was such a hit?  Even though Larry Shaw hired him and knew he was a talent, they hedged their bets in 1968. Five Conan books were published that year and three of the books featured cover art by John Duillo.

Who knows the thinking at the time?  Paying Frazetta for five covers might have been too expensive for the art budget (Frazetta was definitely asking for more money) or maybe they figured the books would sell anyway without Frazetta, or maybe it was an intentional decision to try another artist?

De Camp apparently had criticized the Frazetta look in some fanzines. I’m unaware of any specific criticisms but de Camp’s final words on the subject appeared in his autobiography Time and Chance. Sounding like your cranky grandpa de Camp writes:

Conan the Adventurer had a cover by Frank Frazetta, who painted covers for most of the Lancer Conans. Frazetta’s work was superior to that of most illustrators, but he gave Conan something I have objected to ever since. Robert Howard described Conan’s hair as a “square cut black mane,” implying a Prince Valiant bob. In 1966, however, the rage among rebellious youth was to let one’s hair grow long. So Frazetta gave Conan hair down to his solar plexus, and long-haired Conan has been ever since.

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The Lancer Books were easily available in most cities but rural consumers relied on other means. Jim Warren, publisher of Eerie, Creepy, and Vampirella had used Frazetta covers on his magazines. Jim Warren said he found advertisers avoided his “monster” magazines and he needed revenue from other streams other than newsstand sales. He created Captain Company to sell genre products to his readers. Rubber masks, TV tie-ins, posters, etc. The Captain Company ad for the Conan paperbacks had the iconic Frazetta barbarian but they did not overly stress Frazetta. Two of the four illustrations in the ad are of Duillo art. So, the thinking at the time favored the Conan name over Frazetta.

Frazetta was back for Conan of Cimmeria in 1969, so maybe the Duillo books did sell less as Frazetta supporter’s claim. But printing history for the books does not really support this. Conan the Wanderer (Duillo) went through more printings than Conan the Usurper (Frazetta). So most likely there were letters and fanzine articles that simply clamored for Frazetta’s return and the books in total sold well enough to give the fans want they wanted.

Lancer obviously realized the popularity of Frazetta since they released a Conan poster in 1971 and it sold over 100,000 copies. Frazetta’s wife, who had a head for business, realized they should have a poster business of their own to sell Frazetta’s work. In the early ads for Frazetta posters they featured the Conan name prominently.

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According to Icon, business acrimony developed between Lancer and Frazetta over the Conan name being used in ads for the posters. The posters began appearing under new names. Conan the Conqueror became Berserker, Conan the Adventurer became Barbarian and so on.

Despite the Conan phenomenon, Lancer went bankrupt in 1973, it took a while for the Conan books to be scarce but once they were the British Sphere series began appearing in the United States. They were heavily advertised as featuring the Frazetta covers.

With the Lancers out of print Frazetta began overshadowing REH, leading some Frazetta fans to credit Frazetta’s art as being the most successful element in the Conan series. But REH fandom was growing as well and the Marvel Comic was huge. Out of the ashes of Lancer, came Zebra Books. They placed their faith in REH and Jeff Jones.

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When Ace Books republished the Conan series, they had Boris Vallejo do the new volume Conan of Aquilonia and Vallejo later did new covers for the Duillo volumes but Frazetta remained the premiere artist.

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REH and Frazetta are forever linked. Both have their own fandom and intermingling, of course, exists. After Frazetta, Conan’s popularity continued to rise with scores of new books from Bantam and Tor, two successful movies, and the continuing comics.

Frazetta received his own volumes of illustrations. The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta published by Ballantine Books sold over 300,000 copies!

Today Frazetta’s original Conan art has been sold for record prices. His repainting of Conan the Buccaneer sold for 1.5 million. Conan remains a popular character with graphic novels, planned films, and gaming modules.

REH’s stories are pretty much vacant from the newsstand though. The book industry changed big time after the Thor Power ruling, so now paperback publishers no longer keep an inventory of classic SF/Fantasy authors unless their names are Tolkein, Heinlein, and Dick.

Conan books are currently mostly available online through the remaining stock of the Del-Rey volumes. Will we see a revival if the next Swarzenegger or whatever future Conan movie hits big?  It is impossible to know. Conan is available in millions of old books, public domain collections, and even on-line pirated and non-pirated formats. We most likely will never see a groundswell like the Lancers ever again.

But Joe Rogan was right. Those were books!

With Howard days just four months from today, here is the panel schedule for the two day event happening June 10th and June 11th:

Howard Days 2016 Panel Schedule

FRIDAY June 10. Panels to be held in the Cross Plains High School Library

11 am: 30 YEARS OF HOWARD DAYS. The origins and history of Howard Days will be discussed, along with a showing of photos from over the years. Rusty Burke, Bill Cavalier and Susan McNeel-Childers of Cross Plains will tell their tales.

1:30 pm: The Whole Wide World and One Who Walked Alone. Guest of Honor Michael Scott Myers will discuss the movie, the book and Novalyne Price Ellis, as interviewed by Mark Finn.

2:30 pm: Presentation of the Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards. Rusty Burke, Bill Cavalier and a cast of several. 30 minutes.

9:00 pm: Fists at the Ice House. Mark Finn, Chris Gruber, Jeff Shanks and Patrice Louinet will entertain you with a spirited discussion of the Pugilistic Bob Howard, complete with readings from Howard’s boxing tales. Held on the actual site of the Ice House where Howard boxed.

SATURDAY June 11. Panels to be held at the Cross Plains Senior Center

 11:00 am: REH and FRAZETTA: Celebrating the Fifty Year Legacy of the Lancers. Come hear a lively discussion about this benchmark event in Howard Publishing along with the importance of Frank Frazetta’s iconic cover paintings for the series.

Panelists to include: Gary Romeo, Special Guest Val Mayerik, Jeff Shanks and Rusty Burke (with an opening monologue by Bill Cavalier).

1:30 pm: The Life of Robert E. Howard – A discussion of Howard’s life, his working habits, his mannerisms, his routines, his quirks, his interests. We’ll talk about Howard the Man as opposed to Howard the Writer and also show some rare Howard artifacts (typescripts, photos etc.). Panelists to include: Mark Finn, Patrice Louinet, Chris Gruber and Paul Herman.

2:30 pm: The First Annual Glenn Lord REH Symposium. A presentation by several REH scholars regarding Howard the Writer, with special essay readings by Daniel Look,  Jonas Pridas, Todd Vick, Dierk Guenther. Moderator: Jeff Shanks. 90 minutes.

More details and a complete schedule of Howard Days events will be forthcoming. Stay tuned to the this blog, the Robert E. Howard Days Facebook page and the Robert E. Howard Days blog for updates.

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An important announcement from the The Robert E. Howard Foundation:

Big changes are coming to the REH Foundation!

We will be completely revamping our website and adding some great new content for members. The REH Foundation site will soon become the central hub for online Howard scholarship and you can be a part of it.

We are now offering a FREE membership tier that will give you access to this new content, email news updates, as well voting privileges for the REH Foundation Awards.

Upgrade to one of our premium levels (starting at $9.99 per year) and receive access to the REHF newsletter and other publications, exclusive online content, and other exciting benefits!

Sign up up now and help support the REH Foundation’s mission of promoting the life and works of Robert E. Howard!

Here are the membership levels and perks:

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Pick the the membership level that best fits your needs and sign up here.

Also, the first email blast chock full of information from The Foundation is being sent out this weekend to all Foundation members. So don’t miss out on all the new and exciting things happening with The Foundation and Howard Fandom in general. Sign up today — its free!

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Something old is new again. In the tradition of AmraThe Hyborian Gazette features, in addition to REH related material, this fanzine covers other topics such as general fantasy, Sword and Sorcery, fantasy fiction, etc. Here are the details of the first issue, courtesy of Bill Thom’s Coming Attractions:

Carnelian Press is proud to announce a fanzine from The International Robert E. Howard Fan Association.

Edited by Steve Dilks, The Hyborian Gazette will feature art, stories and articles from the likes of Adrian Cole (The Voidal), Jeffrey Shanks (REHupa academic), Steve Lines (Rainfall Books), Glen Usher (Boscastle) and many more.

Featuring great cover art by legendary British illustrator, Jim Pitts, an exclusive article by REHupa founder, Tim Marion and a rarely seen story from Lin Carter, this is one fanzine you will not want to miss!

Contents

“A Word from the Editor” by Steve Dilks.
“A Rogue Rhyme; Yara’s Pride” by Jason Hardy (poetry); Illustrated by Jim Pitts.
“Perceptions” byJason Hardy (poetry); Illustrated by Jim Pitts.
“Darkness Comes to Erebus” by Julio Gianni Toro SanMartin and Hank Simmons (poetry); Illustrated by Jim Pitts.
“History, Horror, and Heroic Fantasy: Robert E. Howard and the Creation of Sword and Sorcery” by Jeffrey Shanks (article)
“The Priory of the Black Templars” by Glen Usher (story); Illustrated by Steve Lines.
“I Remember R.E.H.U.P.A.” by Tim Marion (article)
“The Shadow Navigator” by Adrian Cole (story); Illustrated by Yannis Rubus Rubulias.
“Red Swords in Tharnya” by Andrew G. Henderson (story); Illustrated by Kurt Brugel.
“Black Stars in the Skulls of Doom” by Lin Carter (story); Illustrated by Al Harron. Calligraphy by Tim Marion.
Afterword by Mario Geraci.

All profits from The Hyborian Gazette will go directly to Project Pride in Cross Plains, Texas, for the upkeep of the Robert E. Howard house and museum.

Pricing details for The Hyborian Gazette # 1 are as follows:

To the U.S and Canada: $18.00

To the U.K.: £10.00

For mainland Europe and the rest of the world please contact us via private message.

How to order through Carnelian Press:

At present we only accept payment via PayPal. If you have an account, please follow these four easy steps:

Step 1: Visit our Facebook page and private message us via the “Message Now” link in the left column of the Facebook page letting us know you would like to purchase a copy of The Hyborian Gazette # 1. We will get back to you with an e-mail address where you can send payment.

Step 2: Go to the PayPal website and log in to your personal account.

Step 3: Once you are logged in, select the option to “Send Money” at the top of the page and enter the correct amount to pay to the email address provided.

Step 4: Once Carnelian Press receives confirmation of the e-mail transaction we will private message you to tell you payment has been received and your book order is ready for shipment.

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Co-editor Jeffrey Shanks holds up a copy of the just released volume on the heyday of Weird TalesThe Unique Legacy of Weird Tales. Jeff and his co-editor Justin Everett complied an amazing line-up of authors, covering a wide range of topics for this in-depth look at The Unique Magazine. For some insight and background on this must-have volume, be sure and check out the interview with Jeff about the book here on the TGR blog.

Contents of The Unique Legacy of Weird Tales

Introduction: Weird Tales — Discourse Community and Genre Nexus

PART I: THE UNIQUE MAGAZINE: WEIRD TALES, MODERNISM, AND GENRE FORMATION

Chapter 1: “Something that swayed as if in unison”: The Artistic Authenticity of Weird Tales in the Interwar Periodical Culture of Modernism by Jason Ray Carney

Chapter 2: Weird Modernism: Literary Modernism in the First Decade of Weird Tales by Jonas Prida

Chapter 3: “Against the Complacency of an Orthodox Sun-Dweller”: The Lovecraft Circle and the “Weird Class” by Daniel Nyikos

Chapter 4: Strange Collaborations: Shared Authorship and Weird Tales by Nicole Emmelhainz

Chapter 5: Gothic to Cosmic: Sword and Sorcery Fiction in Weird Tales by Morgan Holmes

II. EICH-PI-EL AND TWO-GUN BOB: LOVECRAFT AND HOWARD IN WEIRD TALES

Chapter 6: A Nameless Horror: Madness and Metamorphosis in H.P. Lovecraft and Post-modernism by Clancy Smith

Chapter 7: Great Phallic Monoliths: Lovecraft and Sexuality by Bobby Derie

Chapter 8: Evolutionary Otherness: Anthropological Anxiety in Robert E. Howard’s “Worms of the Earth” by Jeffrey Shanks

Chapter 9: Eugenic Thought in the Works of Robert E. Howard by Justin Everett

III. MASTERS OF THE WEIRD: OTHER AUTHORS OF WEIRD TALES

Chapter 10: Pegasus Unbridled: Clark Ashton Smith and the Ghettoization of the Fantastic by Scott Connors

Chapter 11: “A Round Cipher”: Word-Building and World-Building in the Weird Works of Clark Ashton Smith by Geoffrey Reiter

Chapter 12: C. L. Moore and M. Brundage: Competing Femininities in the October, 1934 Issue of Weird Tales by Jonathan Helland

Chapter 13: Psycho-ology 101: Incipient Madness in the Weird Tales of Robert Bloch by Paul Shovlin

Chapter 14: “To Hell and Gone”: Harold Lawlor’s Self-Effacing Pulp Metafiction by Sidney Sondergard

This volume, published by, Rowman & Littlefield, is available now from Amazon.com.

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This past weekend a hoard of HPL fans gathered in Providence to mark the 125th anniversary of the birth of the Old Gent. Among the masses were representatives of the Robert E. Howard Foundation who were there to enlighten and separate conventioneers from their pazoors with some first rate REHF Press volumes. Here are some photos from the event.

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The Howard A Team arrives (Rusty Burke, Mark Finn and Jeff Shanks).

 

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Setting up the Foundation table in the dealers’ room.

 

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The REHF table open for business with the highly motivated sales team ready to greet customers.

 

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The view of the dealers’ room from the Foundation’s table.

 

Jeff makes a new friend.

Jeff makes a new friend.

 

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The Two-Gun Bob Rides Again! panel.

 

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Panelists (left to right) Jeff Shanks, Rusty Burke, Scott Connors, Mark Finn and Rick Lai.

 

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S. T. Joshi chatting with Jeff Shanks at the Foundation’s table.

 

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Mark spinning a tall tale at the Foundation table.

 

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Howard Heads enjoying the guest reception.

 

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The gang enjoying some adult beverages al fresco in Providence (Jeff Shanks, Rusty Burke, Alex Gladwin, Dan Look, Laura Brown and Scott Connors).

 

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Howard fan Scott Valeri with legendary author Ramsey Campbell and his wife Jenny.

 

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The party is over. All that is left is for Mark to turn out the lights.

Photos by Jeff Shanks, Mark Finn, Scott Valeri, et al.

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TGR contributor Jeffrey Shanks has co-edited a new collection of essays on Weird Tales titled The Unique Legacy of Weird Tales. The book is being published by Rowman & Littlefield and is due out in October.  His co-editor is Howard scholar Justin Everett.  Shanks has a day job as an archaeologist and is very active in popular culture studies, currently serving  co-chair of the Pulp Studies area of the Popular Culture Association. Of course, he is well known to Howard fans has the author of a number of articles and essays on Two-Gun Bob.  Those efforts have garnered him the REH Foundation Award for Best Print Essay three years in a row. Shanks is one of the founders of Skelos Press, publisher Zombies from the Pulps! and The Hyborian Age – Facsimile Edition. He has taken out time from his busy schedule to answer some questions about the upcoming The Unique Legacy of Weird Tales.

TGR:  I know you and Justin Everett are co-editors of the book. When the two of you were putting this volume together, what were some of the goals you hoped the book to achieve?

Shanks:  Well, Justin and I are co-chairs for the Pulp Studies Area of the Popular Culture Association (PCA) and I began to realize that a large percentage of the papers being given at the annual conferences were on Howard, Lovecraft, and the other writers for Weird Tales. I knew that all of this outstanding research needed to get out there, but since venues for publishing academic work of this kind are somewhat limited I decided that we should look at putting a collected volume together.

At the same time, I wanted to include some of the great scholarship that is being done in fandom circles as well. So I began to envision the project as way to showcase the work of both established independent scholars as well as some the younger academics and grad students that are doing amazing work on the Weird Tales authors.

TGR:  How long did it take to bring this book to fruition?

Shanks:  It’s been a long, arduous process to bring this together. By 2012 I felt like we the potential to put together a good collection and I was already envisioning who I wanted the contributors to be. In early 2013 I approached Justin about being co-editor as many of the chapters would be coming from papers given in our Pulp Studies area and he readily agreed. I also began talking to a number of individuals that I wanted to contribute, among them S. T. Joshi. While Joshi felt like he wasn’t in a position to contribute, he did suggest that the volume would be perfect for his newly-launched Studies in Supernatural Literature series from Rowman and Littlefield.

The rest of the year was spent assembling the contributors and discussing chapter topics. Over time several contributors dropped out and others came in to replace them. By summer of 2014 we had most of the first drafts in, and spent the rest of the year reviewing chapters and getting revisions. By spring of this year, the final manuscript was turned in to the publisher. I just finished compiling the index and putting together a list of last minute corrections. Now with great relief I can announce that the book should be out this October.

REH:  Is the book divided into sections by the theme of the essays?

Shanks:  Yes, it is. The overarching theme of the book is that Weird Tales was something of a perfect storm as a venue for speculative fiction when it first appeared in 1923. It became a crucible for the formation and evolution of what would become the modern forms of fantasy and horror. So the first section of the book contains essays that look at Weird Tales through that lens – a place of genre creation. The second section focuses on two of the most influential writers from those early years, H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. Lovecraft was a pioneer of modern horror just as Howard was a pioneer of modern fantasy, and their contributions are significant enough to warrant their own section. The final section looks at some of the other most important and influential contributors to Weird Tales, like Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch, and C. L. Moore. There are many writers and topics that did not get the attention they really deserve due to space limitations, but hopefully we see more collections like this in the future.

TGR:  Will this volume cover “The Unique Magazine” throughout its lifetime (from March 1923 through September 1954)?

Shanks:  Well, the focus of the book is on Weird Tales during its heydey in the 20s and 30s under the editorship of Farnsworth Wright – the so-called Golden Age of the magazine. But the beginnings of the magazine under Edwin Baird are definitely explored in a couple chapters and some attention is given to the later incarnation of the magazine under Dorothy McIlraith. There is actually one chapter on Harold Lawlor, one of the later writers from the 40s who isn’t as well-known as he probably should be,

TGR:  Can you tell us who some of the contributors are?

Shanks:  Certainly, and in fact the full table of contents is available on the Roman and Littlefield website. There are names that should be familiar to REH fans like TGR and The Cimmerian contributor Morgan Holmes, literature professor and editor of Conan Meets the Academy Jonas Prida, Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos author and TGR contributor Bobby Derie, The Cimmerian and Conan Meets the Academy contributor Paul Shovlin, and the foremost Clark Ashton Smith scholar Scott Connors.

There are several established professors like Justin Everett, Sid Sondergard, Clancy Smith, and Geoffrey Reiter. And there are a number of up and coming young professors and graduate students that have made their mark at PCA/ACA in recent years and from whom you will be seeing much more in the near future. This includes Fulbright scholar Daniel Nyikos; C. L. Moore expert Jonathan Helland; The Dark Man contributor Jason Ray Carney, and Nicole Emmelhainz — both of whom will be giving academic papers at NecronomiCon this year.

TGR:  What are some of the topics covered by the contributors?

Shanks:  Jason and Jonas both look at Modernism and Weird Tales, but with very different approaches. Daniel discusses the Lovecraft Circle with a focus on HPL and REH. Nicole looks at Weird Tales as a “discourse community” – a subject that is her area of expertise. Morgan presents a survey of sword and sorcery in the magazine. Clancy Smith looks at Lovecraft and Postmodernism, while Bobby discusses Lovecraft and sexuality. Justin’s chapter is on Robert E. Howard and eugenics and Scott Connors explores Clark Ashton Smith’s struggle for literary acceptance. Geoffrey Reiter looks at Smith’s use of language. Jonathan discusses the different depictions of femininity in C. L. Moore’s “The Black God’s Kiss” and its accompanying artwork. Paul Shovlin probes into the psychological horror of Robert Bloch and Sid Sondergard discusses the metafictional aspects of Harold Lawlor’s works. And finally, my chapter looks at early anthropological and evolutionary theory in REH’s Little People stories like “Worms of the Earth.”

TGR:  What tone do the essays have? Are they more academic or causal and personable or a mixture of the two?

Shanks:  They are definitely academic, but also accessible, without an over-reliance on jargon and scholarly apparatus. It is intelligent, high-level scholarship but still very readable and interesting for the lay person and academic alike

TGR:  Do you believe this book will have a major impact on how people perceive fantasy and horror stories and the magazine itself?

Shanks:  Well I certainly hope so – or at least on how they perceive the origins of the modern forms of fantasy and horror. Weird Tales was the venue where much of that genre formation took place, but this is rarely acknowledged even by weird fiction scholars. I hope to show that the literary, historical, and social context in which modern weird fiction developed was the community of fans and professionals that formed around Weird Tales.

TGR:  Will we learn anything new about Weird Tales in this book?

Shanks: Well I definitely learned new things. Quite a bit actually. It’s hard not to you when have such an impressive team of scholars assembled, all delving into new aspects of Weird Tales and the early weird fiction writers. I think it would hard to read these essays and not come away with new appreciation for the cultural significance of Weird Tales.

TGR:  Anything you’d like to add that we need to know about The Unique Legacy of Weird Tales?

Shanks:  One thing that I think readers of this blog will appreciate is that Robert E. Howard and his weird fiction are featured very prominently in this collection and that’s not an accident. I feel that Howard’s significance has been overlooked or even downplayed in weird fiction scholarship in recent years and I hope this collection will be something of a corrective to that trend. Whether you are fan of his work or not, there is no denying his importance as an influential pioneer of speculative fiction and I want to make him and his work part of the conversation again.

Also, keep an eye out for some of the newer names in this collection as you are going to be seeing a lot more of them in places like TGR, The Dark Man, and Skelos, the new weird fiction journal that Mark Finn, Chris Gruber, and I will be launching later this year.

Capture

When I decided in early 1976 I wanted to start a Robert E. Howard fanzine, there was already a bunch of them being published, including Amra, Cross Plains, Fantasy Crossroads, The Howard Review and REH: Lone Star Fictioneer. Entering such a crowded field was not exactly a logical thing to do, but I was never much for logic, so I dove in. With little money and no contributors, I started out by contacting other fanzine editors (Jonathan Bacon, Arnie Fenner, Dennis McHaney, Byron Roark and Wayne Warfield).  I had been in contact with Glenn Lord for about a year prior to starting TGR. I asked them all for advice and referrals for contributors and artists. I also reached out to a few friends who shared my interest in Howard.

At least two of the fanzine editors tried to talk me out of starting a new REH zine saying there were already too many of them (toward the end of 1976, one of them proclaimed everything about Howard was already written and there was no future for Howard studies and fanzines).

I managed to get contributions from Warfield, Roark, Bill Wallace (a book dealer, collector and fellow Howard fan), James Bozath (a local artist and Howard buff) and Elaine Kuhns (my aunt and a professional astrologer). I wound up writing well over half the issue myself. Not something I intended, it just worked out that way. Howard fiction was in the works, but I was anxious to get the first issue out, so I charged ahead. That first effort was a meager one, but I could see the potential for improvement as I was adding more names of potential contributors to my Rolodex (link to information on a Rolodex added as a courtesy to younger readers).

At the tail end of the issue there was an article I wrote comparing the two versions of Red Sonya — Howard’s and Marvel’s. It was actually a filler piece – I had a few pages I needed to fill to get the issue up to a 44 page count.

At that time, various other Howard fanzines were getting plugged in the letters sections of Conan the Barbarian and other Marvel publications featuring Howard characters. So I sent Roy Thomas a comp copy of the first issue with a cover letter hoping he would do the same for REH: Two-Gun Raconteur. I was in for a rude awakening when I received a reply from Thomas.

Apparently he took umbrage at my criticism of Red Sonja and decided since it was not in line with the Marvel way of thinking, he was not going to plug REH: Two-Gun Raconteur in any of the Howard related comics or magazines. Of course I was disappointed and thought it was unfair, but as someone once told me, “fair is a place where they give blue ribbons to pigs.” But it was Thomas’ sandbox and he got to decide who played there so I quickly moved on with no hard feelings toward Thomas.

Here is a slightly abridged and lightly edited version of that infamous article:

Red Sonja is based on an original Robert E.  Howard character named Red Sonya. Red Sonya appeared only once in a story called “The Shadow of the Vulture” (The Magic Carpet Magazine, January 1934). “Vulture” is a historical yarn set in the 16th century during the siege of Vienna by the Turks. The story is one of Howard’s best and when it was adapted into comic form [Conan the Barbarian] it still retained most of the excitement REH wrote into it.

The Conan version appeared in Conan the Barbarian #23 with Barry Smith’s beautiful version of Red Sonja. The following issue also featured Sonja, but after these tales, the “She Devil” went downhill. We next saw her in The Savage Sword of Conan #1 sporting a ridiculous new costume – a scale-mail bikini. Her first solo tale appeared in that same issue and she popped-up again in Conan the Barbarian #’s 43-44 in a tale based on Dave English’s “Tower of Blood.” A second Sonja solo story was published in Conan the Barbarian #48 and she was at last given her own series in Kull and the Barbarians. After that magazine folded, readers were screaming for more of Red Sonja and so Marvel Feature was created with Sonja in her own four color series. Four rather dull issues have appeared to date.

My main gripes with Red Sonja are the lack of realism and the fact that the strip has no direction. Howard’s Red Sonya was like all his other characters – real in the sense that she was an individual. Sonya dressed realistically; REH described her thusly:

She was tall. Splendidly shaped, but lithe. From under a steel cap escaped rebellious tresses that rippled red gold in the sun over her compact shoulders. High boots of Cordovan leather came to her mid-thighs, which were cased in baggy breeches. She wore a shirt of fine, Turkish mesh-mail tucked into her breeches. Her supple waist was confined by a flowing sash of green silk, into which were thrust a brace of pistols and a dagger, and from which depended a long Hungarian saber. Over all was carelessly thrown a cloak.

As you can see, there are a number of differences between the two. Personally I wish Thomas had left Red Sonya in the sixteenth century since Howard created her for that era. The sword woman from Rogatino did not get her fighting ability from an “angel,” but rather in numerous fights where she had to be quick with a sword or pistol. In fact, to my knowledge, none of REH’s heroes or heroines had their fighting skills given to them – they learned them the hard way.

The lack of direction is another problem. Most of Red Sonja’s adventures take place in “Darkwood Forest” and I am sick of all the trees. Get her on a ship or in a sizable city; anywhere would be an improvement over that inane forest. Sonja, like the other Howard characters in Marvel Comics, should have a quest or goal in her wanderings; this would make the “She Devil’s” tales more interesting.

I think, with a few changes, the strip could improve 100%. First, get Red Sonja back into some decent clothing, that thing she is currently wearing only appeals to the adolescent readers. The original Barry Smith version of Sonja would be ideal, but I doubt if anyone would listen to my suggestions.

In the Howard version of “The Shadow of the Vulture,” Red Sonya hated her sister Roxelana because she was Suleyman’s mistress. Perhaps vendetta or quest could be worked into the Red Sonja comic; a goal or constant protagonist would greatly improve the tales.

I am not trying to tear the strip down, just offering a few opinions. The stories are fairly good swordplay and sorcery; however they are not very Howardian. Bruce Jones and Frank Thorne are a good team, but neither is suited for this type of heroine.

But when you come right down to it, the readers of Red Sonja like her as is. Hopefully some of them will realize that the so-called Howard character is pretty far removed from anything he wrote.

Damn, I wrote this piece nearly forty years ago. I’m old.

Editor’s Note: As I noted in my editorial in the current issue of the TGR print journal, there will special postings here from time to time in the coming months on the publication history of the print journal. This is the first of those posts leading up to the publication of 40th Anniversary edition of REH: Two-Gun Raconteur next June.

The Hyborian Age

Since we are half way through 2015, I thought I’d pause and highlight the various Robert E. Howard books and publications that have appeared so far this year.

The latest and my personal favorite is the recent edition of “The Hyborian Age,” one of the rarest Howard items sought after by collectors. I’ve only seen one copy in person at that was at a behind the scenes tour at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin where a copy was being prepared for a public display of Howard materials. It was sight to behold. Of course I couldn’t actually handle it, but it was still a thrill just to see it.

Here is a description of the facsimile publication of the “Hyborian Age” from the Skelos Press website.

Skelos Press is proud to present a facsimile edition of one of the rarest and most valuable of all Conan and Robert E. Howard publications – the legendary 1938 chapbook The Hyborian Age published by LANY Cooperative. Originally compiled by Forrest J. Ackerman, Donald Wollheim, and several other notable fans of the time, this booklet contains the first full publication of Howard’s world-building essay “The Hyborian Age,” along with the first published map of Conan’s world. It also includes the first appearance of the famous essay “A Probable Outline of Conan’s Career” by P. Schuyler Miller and Dr. John D. Clark, as well as an introductory letter from H. P. Lovecraft. This modern facsimile edition includes a new introductory essay by Howard expert and pulp scholar Jeffrey Shanks discussing the history of this publication and the back-story behind “The Hyborian Age.”

This  facsimile edition is the next best thing to owning an original copy and a whole lot cheaper. You can purchase it from Amazon.com.

girasol-WeirdTales-July1933Girasol Collectibles, which is ceasing publication of its pulp replicas, published its final two issues Weird Tales, both featuring a Howard story:  Volume 22 Number 1, July 1933 (“The Man on the Ground”) and Volume 25 Number 2, February 1935 (“The Grisly Horror”). These replicas, which allowed fans to read Howard’s stories as they first appeared, will be sorely missed by the many fans (myself included) who collected them.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t toss out a shameless plug for the new issue of the REH: Two-Gun Raconteur print journal, even though sales very been good for issue 18, I still have copies available.

An outfit called Fiction House Press has published four books of PD material, mostly lifted from the Gutenberg Australia website. Titles include Red Nails, A Gent from Bear Creek, The Devil In Iron (which includes “A Witch Shall Be Born” and “Jewels of Gwahlur”) and Queen of the Black Coast (which includes “The People of the Black Circle”). I  imagine everyone has these stories in one form or another already, but still outlets like Fiction House continue to publish them over and over again just because they can.

Le Guide Howard (The Howard Guide) by Patrice Louinet is a nice little volume that was published in April. It is currently available only in French, but Patrice is hard at work on an English version. Here is a description of the book (translated from the publisher’s website):

His texts have shaped the codes of fantasy. His characters (Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane …) marked generations of readers. For fifteen years, Robert E. Howard knows a true literary resurrection.

Free of interference of those who have appropriate after his death, his founding work is now accessible in all its strength through friendly editions of his work.

Written by Patrice Louinet, one of the biggest specialists in the world of Howard, this guide full of new information explores the many facets of a rich work, debunks the past prejudices, and gives us many reasons to (re) read again and again.

Summary:

Thanks
Introduction
I. Ten myths about Howard
II. The twenty new need to have read (and why)
III. Biography
IV. Twenty other texts that also deserve your attention
V. Few terse words in ten other texts
VI. Conan, the real and imitation
VII. On Howard
VIII. Adaptations
IX. Around Howard
X. Dear Mr. Lovecraft
XI. Read Howard
Conclusion

So if you are like me and can’t read French, fear not because an English edition will soon be forthcoming.

Bobby Derie complied the Addenda and Index to The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, which was published by the REHF Press early this year. In addition to Addenda and Index, Derie created abstracts of all the letters in the three volumes on a Wikithulhu webpage. It’s a perfect tool for scholars and researchers to get a handle on what they are looking for. Here is the blurb for the book from the REHF website:

11594_10203070105425884_2880174201235088716_nThe Robert E. Howard Foundation Press is proud to present this long-awaited index to the three-volume The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard. Compiled by Bobby Derie, author of Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos, with a foreword and annotations by REHF Award-winning author Jeffrey Shanks, this important reference work provides a much-needed tool for researchers studying the correspondence of the father of sword and sorcery and the creator of Conan the Cimmerian. Also included are seventeen letters by Howard newly discovered since the publication of The Collected Letters, including several drafts of letters to H. P. Lovecraft, all wrapped up in fine cover by Jim & Ruth Keegan. This index is a must-have for fans and scholars wishing to explore the fascinating epistolary corpus of one of the greatest fantasy adventure writers of the 20th century.

 

Ordering details also appear on the webpage.

The fourth and final volume of Fists of Iron: The Collected Boxing Fiction of Robert E. Howard was published in April:

The REH Foundation Press is proud to present Fists of Iron, Round 4, the final volume of a four-volume series that presents the Collected Boxing Fiction of Robert E. Howard. This volume features the collected Kid Allison stories and measures in at 347 pages (plus introductory material). It will be printed in hardback with dust jacket, with the first printing limited to 200 copies, each individually numbered. Cover art by Tom Gianni and introduction by Mark Finn. Now shipping.

This volume rounds out the collection nicely and is a must have for any true Howard aficionado. Copies are still available. Also, a fifth companion volume is in the works.

The tenth issue of Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword comic appeared in April:

This issue is packed from cover to cover with stories by some of comics’ greatest creators. Ron Marz teams up with Richard Clark to tell a thrilling tale of human sacrifice and swift justice starring Solomon Kane. Alex de Campi and Marc Laming adapt Howard’s famed fable “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth” and John Ostrander pens a brand-new story starring the Cimmerian swordsman Conan! Plus we reprint the timeless Kull tale “Demon in a Silvered Glass” by Doug Moench and John Bolton!

This Dark Horse anthology series always has a wide variety of Howard characters featured in each issue. Issues 1 through 8 have been published in two paperbound books, with four issues in each one.

Finally, if you are either a Friend of REH or a Legacy Circle member of The Robert E. Howard Foundation, three newsletters have been published so far this year, with two more planned. The REHF Newsletter appears quarterly.

As for the second half of the year, who knows what is in store for Howard fans. A lot of things are cooking, we’ll just have to wait and see what is served up.