Archive for the 'Howard Fandom' Category

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.

Finally, if you a 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.

IMGI was a fan of Earl Norem and his wonderful artwork before I even knew there was a writer named Robert E. Howard.

Mr. Norem passed away on June 19th, and this news, sad as it was, did serve to remind me how this talented man’s illustrations were very much a part of my childhood. I returned to the pleasant days when I was a very young boy, visiting bookstores at least once every week, hoping to have enough change to pick up the latest Turok, Son of Stone comic, or a boxing magazine, or a copy of Real West. 

This was before the Howard boom and one of my reading thrills was picking up true western mags, and my favorite was Real West, which, almost always—or so it seemed to me—sported a cover by Norem, just like the example pictured to the left.

Earl Norem helped develop my reading habits.  Beautiful artworkIMG_0002 could suck me into buying the periodical but once I got over the cover the only recourse left was to read the articles and that’s exactly what I did.  During this youth of mine I devoured lots of boxing and western history, and of course couldn’t get enough of the adventures of comic characters such as Turok and his pal Andar as they battled the “honkers” of Lost Valley.

All this pre-teen activity paved the way for Howard and his yarns of pugilists, gunslingers, and of past times that never were but should have been.

Some of this is due to Earl Norem and I owe him one of those debts that can never be paid.  A few years later I was amazed when I started seeing his covers to The Savage Sword of Conan.  I mean what the hell? Norem was a western artist, right?  I never knew until much later just how prolific this artistic juggernaut was.

During his lifetime of art Mr. Norem’s work appeared in men’s adventure magazines, Reader’s Digest and the venerable Field and Stream.  When I started collecting non-sport trading cards I found more Norem, most notably on the Mars Attacks! and Conan sets which were appearing and then taking away some of my hard earned dollars.  He also worked with Marvel on titles such as Tales of the Zombie and Planet of the Apes.  The list is damn near endless.  Always the work was top-notch and instantly recognizable as belonging to the hand of a master who could clearly draw a story as well as some writers could type it.

I am fortunate enough to have an original Norem in my poor man’s art gallery and I’ve included it here, even though my scanner has made it a bit blurry.  This is from Island of Danger, a story book he illustrated which starred the Fantastic Four.

Like I said, this guy could paint anything.  And he always did it well—he can’t be replaced.

One side note which may be of interest to Howard fans.  The copy of Real West displayed above contains an article by Howard pal Harold Preece, “The Sorry Saga of Charley Pierce.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here is Chuck’s obituary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pre-orders are now being accepted for issue number 18 of The Definitive Robert E. Howard Journal. This is an extremely limited edition of 150 copies, so don’t procrastinate if you want a copy.

The new issue will make its debut at Howard Days on June 12th. If you can’t make it to Cross Plains, you can pre-order it beginning today. Orders will ship in late June. Price per copy is $21.00, plus $4.00 for U.S. shipping and handling. Overseas orders require additional postage, so email inquiries here for the overseas shipping rates.

Contents include:

A full color cover by Bob Covington featuring Cormac Fitzgeoffrey, inside front and back covers featuring scenes from “The Black Stone” by Bryan “Zarono” Reagan and a back cover by Stephen Fabian.

“The Cobra in the Dream” by Robert E. Howard, illustrated by Charles Fetherolf

“Iron Man Roll Call” by Chris Gruber, illustrated by Clayton Hinkle

“A Farewell to the Old West – The End of the “Old Frontier”—Robert E. Howard’s ‘Old Garfield’s Heart’” by Dierk Guenther, illustrated by Richard Pace

“The Hyborian Sage: Real-World Parallels Between Howard’s Essay and Modern Discoveries” by Wm. Michael Mott, illustrated by Robert Sankner

“Worms of the Earth: A Bran Mak Morn Portfolio” by Michael L. Peters

“Not Your Ordinary Gun-Dummy: The Western Heroes of Robert E. Howard” by James Reasoner, illustrated by Terry Plavet

“The Poetry Contest” by Rob Roehm

“Conan der Ubermensch” by David Scherpenhuizen, illustrated by Bill Cavalier

As stated above the price is $25.00, which includes U.S. postage and handling.

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.)

or Order and Pay Via PayPal:

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I know, I know. Howard Days is still coming up and here is a post about PulpFest 2015. This year the convention takes note of the 125th anniversary of HPL’s birth. It is always a good idea to plan ahead, so if you are thinking about attending this major Summer pulp convention, here are the particulars from the PulpFest website:

PulpFest, also known as “Summer’s Great Pulp Con,” returns to the beautiful Hyatt Regency in downtown Columbus, Ohio for its 44th edition. It will begin on Thursday, August 13th at 6 PM with four hours of early-bird shopping in the dealers’ room, located on the hotel’s third floor. You can learn how to become an early-bird or a dealer by visiting our registration page. To reserve a room at the Hyatt Regency, click “book a room.” PulpFest 2015 will run until 2 PM on Sunday, August 16th, when our dealers’ room will shut its doors.

Beginning with its first convention in 2009, PulpFest has annually drawn hundreds of fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction and related materials to Columbus, Ohio where it is currently based. Planned as a successor to Pulpcon, the new convention took on the name PulpFest and sought to widen the focus of the annual confab. Although centered around pulp fiction and pulp magazines, PulpFest was founded on the premise that the pulps had a profound effect on American popular culture, reverberating through a wide variety of mediums—comic books, movies, paperbacks and genre fiction, television, men’s adventure magazines, radio drama, and even video and role-playing games. The summertime destination for fans and collectors of vintage popular fiction and related materials, PulpFest seeks to honor pulp fiction by drawing attention to the many ways it had inspired writers, artists, film directors, software developers, and other creators over the decades. Click on the PulpFest history button at the bottom of the home page to learn more about the convention’s development.

As 2015 marks the 125th anniversary of the birth of author H. P. Lovecraft – the “Edgar Allan Poe of the 20th Century” and “The Copernicus of the horror story” – PulpFest will be celebrating his life and his work. In addition to programming on the author’s celebrated Cthulhu Mythos, we’ll also examining his relationship with Weird Tales, the pulp magazine where the bulk of his fiction was published.

PulpFest 2015 will also be paying tribute to Ned Pines’ Standard Magazines, better known as “The Thrilling Group.” Along with Street & Smith, Popular Publications, and the Frank A. Munsey Company, Pines’ line was one of the leading publishers of pulp magazines during the early twentieth century. We’ll be spotlighting a wide array of the company’s magazines, examining the Standard hero, detective, western, adventure, and sports pulps as well as their line of comic books. Click on our schedule and programming buttons for additional details.

Although the focus of PulpFest 2015 will be pulp magazines and related materials, visitors will also find vintage paperbacks, digests, men’s adventure and true crime magazines, first edition hardcovers, series books, dime novels, original art, Big Little Books, B-movies and serials and related collectibles, old-time-radio shows, and Golden and Silver Age comic books for sale in its 15,800 square-foot dealers’ room, located in the Regency Ballroom. In addition to attracting some of the leading collectibles dealers from across the United States and Canada, PulpFest also plays host to a wide array of contemporary publishers including those who reprint material from the old pulps as well as publishing houses dealing in contemporary genre fiction.

At PulpFest, you’ll find science-fiction books and magazines, detective and adventure pulps, westerns, original cover art and interior illustrations, stacks of digest magazines, vintage paperbacks and comic books, unique films, and much, much more! You’ll be entertained and informed by countless presentations and panels featuring leading pop-culture experts. You’ll see old pals and meet new friends. You can even join FarmerCon, the convention dedicated to Grand Master of Science Fiction Philip José Farmer. You’ll find all this and more at PulpFest, “Summer’s Great Pulp Con!”

You’ll find additional details about PulpFest by exploring our website. To be added to our mailing list for our annual newsletter, please send your name and address to David J. Cullers or to 1272 Cheatham Way, Bellbrook, OH 45305. Please let him know whether you want our member or dealer newsletter. You can also reach PulpFest by dialing 863-606-8878 and leaving your name and a phone number where you can be reached.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning now to attend PulpFest 2015 and join hundreds of pulp fiction fans at the pop-culture center of the universe!

And as the case every year, there will be a good sized contingent of Howard Heads on hand to hang out with.

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This entry filed under H. P. Lovecraft, Howard Fandom, News, Weird Tales.

Black Stone SacrificeIssue number 18 of The Definitive Robert E. Howard Journal is in the works and will be published this Summer. As with past issues, REH: Two-Gun Raconteur #18 will feature a stellar line-up of contributors, pulling out all the stops to provide outstanding content for your reading pleasure.

In addition to a hard-to-find Howard story, other contents include essays and articles by Chris Gruber, Dierk Guenther, Wm. Michael Mott, James Reasoner, and David Scherpenhuizen.

Plus artwork by Bill Cavalier, Bob Covington, Stephen Fabian, Charles Fetherolf, Clayton Hinkle, Richard Pace, Michael L. Peters, Terry Plavet, Bryan “Zarono” Reagan and Robert Sankner.

Stay tuned for more details, including contents, price and pre-order information.

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Based on previous years, the twelve weeks until Howard Days are going to literally fly by. So if you are considering going, now is the time to make your arraingments.

In addition to this year’s Guest of Honor, Mark Schultz, there will be an emphasis on the friendship and correspondence between Howard and Lovecraft to mark the 125th anniversary of the Old Gent’s birth.

Of course there will be the usual popular panels and events again this year, plus a bus trip to Howard’s gravesite in the Greenleaf Cemetery located in Brownwood and a REH Trivia Contest with prizes for the winners.

Additionally, for you gamers, Patrice Louinet will be attending and will have all the details and news on the successful Kickstarter campaign for the new Conan board game coming out this Fall.

Here is the short version of this year’s Howard Days’ schedule:

Summary Schedule of Events and Activities

Thursday, June 11th:

2:00 – 4:00 pm: The Robert E. Howard House open to the public. No docents on duty. Pavilion and Gift Shop will be open.

The Cross Plains Barbarian Festival will conduct a Parade on Main Street at 6:00 pm and there will be a Fish Dinner at the Cross Plains Senior Center (proceeds benefit the Center). Howard Days attendees are encouraged to partake.

Friday, June 12th:

8:30 am until gone: Coffee and donuts at the Pavilion.

9:00 am – 4:00 pm: Robert E. Howard House Museum open to the public.

9:00 am – 4:00 pm: REH Postal Cancellation at Cross Plains Post Office. 9:00 am – 11:00 am: Bus Tour of Cross Plains and Surrounding Areas, leaving from the Pavilion.

10:00 am – 5:00 pm: Cross Plains Public Library open, REH manuscripts available for viewing.

10:00 am – 5:00 pm: Pavilion available for REH Swap Meet.

11:00 am: PANEL: “Conan vs. Cthulhu” at the Library.

Noon: Lunch hosted by Project Pride at the Pavilion.

1:30 pm: PANEL: “The Mark Schultz Hour” at the Library.

2:30 pm: PANEL: Presentation of the REH Foundation 2014 Awards, at the Library. (30 minutes)

3:15 pm to 5:15 pm: Bus Tour to Howard’s grave in the Greenleaf Cemetery in Brownwood; meet at Pavilion.

5:30 pm – 6:30 pm: Silent Auction items available for viewing and bidding at Banquet site.

6:30 pm: Robert E. Howard Celebration Banquet and Silent Auction at the Cross Plains Community Center.

9:00 pm: PANEL: “Fists at the Ice House” (behind the Texas Taxidermy building on Main Street).

Afterward there will be Howard Fellowship at the Pavilion and some extemporaneous REH Poetry Reading from the front porch of the House.

Saturday, June 13th:

9:00 am – 4:00 pm: Robert E. Howard House Museum open to the public.

9:00 am – 4:00 pm: The Barbarian Festival at Treadway Park, 3 blocks west of REH House.

10:00 am – 3:00 pm: Cross Plains Public Library open, REH manuscripts available for viewing.

10:30 am: PANEL: “A Means to Freedom: Letters of REH and HPL” at the Library.

10:00 a.m. to 5:00 pm: Pavilion available for REH items Swap Meet.

Lunch and Barbarian Festival activities at your leisure during the day.

1:30 pm: PANEL: “Robert E. Howard and Fantasy Gaming” at the Library.

2:30 pm: PANEL: “What’s Happening with Bob Howard?” at the Library. (30 minutes)

5:00 pm: Sunset BBQ at the Caddo Peak Ranch. Meet at Pavilion at 4:30 pm and caravan to Ranch.

Afterward there will be Howard Fellowship at the Pavilion and some extemporaneous REH Poetry Reading from the front porch of the House.

(All panels at REH Days last about one hour and are held at the Library unless noted.)

For more information, including the detailed schedule, where to stay, eat, etc. visit the REHupa 2015 Howard Days webpage.

Also, be sure and pre-register for the Banquet and Barbeque. The cost is only $15 per person. Please send your name(s) and address with a check or money order or register via PayPal: ProjPride@yahoo.com. The address for mail-in payments is Project Pride, Attn: REH Days 2015 Pre-registration, PO Box 534, Cross Plains, TX 76443. Please pre-register before June 6, 2015.

As the old saying goes, “be there or be square.”

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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 von 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 von 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 von 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 Naacal, proto-Stygian enslavers of the Lemurian refugees after the Great Cataclysm.

The Naacal monks were racially proud to an extreme degree. They and their Stygian cousins were slave-masters for millenia, as were their more distant kindred, 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 proto-Stygian deity, “Nyarlak” (Nyarlathotep), had become “Erlik,” the war-god of the Hyrkanian (and later, Altaic) nomads who had long ago thrown off the Naacal 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.

Mulder _NEWDespite 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 von 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 von 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 von 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, Part Five, Part Six

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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:

zebra-swordwoman

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.

wildside-beyondtheblackriver

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.
“Mermaid” painting by Andrew Loomis.