Archive for the 'Howard House Museum' Category

This is the third of a series of posts about Howard’s good friend Harold Preece and the lady poet Winona Morris Nation. This actually started as a one shot deal, but blossomed into something more when Winona’s son John Nation contacted me with new, previously unknown facts about the last 14 years of Harold’s life with Winona. Those earlier posts can be found here and here. I have to give special thanks to John for the information he provided for this post

In the beginning it was just Harold in love with her. She admired Harold; respected him; but love grew more slowly for her. One morning after taking care of Harold’s breakfast and cleaning his apartment as she did daily, Winona stormed up the stairs mad as a wet hen saying, “That Harold Preece thinks we are having a great love affair. Let me tell you we are not having a great love affair.”

But whatever got her riled, it passed.

Then fast forward about ten years to late 1990. John was then living in the Bahamas on a sailboat and he returned every year to the states to stay two months with Winona in her house. This is why John knows things about the pair his brothers don’t – he was part of their lives on a daily basis.

The first Gulf War had just started and John was troubled by all the sabre rattling and hoopla. One day at lunch he said to Winona, “I live in a country of eternal sun where wars never come — the Bahamas. With what we have together we could rent a small house and spend the rest of our lives there in peace and happiness.”

It was as if she didn’t see or hear John. She sort of looked right through him like he was transparent. “I could never leave Harold,” was all she said. So you see he had won her heart. And there are her poems to prove it “. . . one man alone has plumbed my depths” (from “The Vigil Keeper”).

Winona appreciated many different kinds of poetry, except for “beat poetry.” She had nothing against the style; it just didn’t appeal to her. Both John and Winona read some of Howard’s prose and John was impressed by its apparent effortlessness —  its flow and smoothness — its ability to express a mood or a description of something in what for a painter would be a few simple but elegant brushstrokes.

But John has no specific memory of Winona saying anything about Howard’s poetry — good or bad. She did write a poem about the day he died called “Storm Over Cross Plains,” which appeared in Simba #2 (Simba Reproductions, 1978).

Storm Over Cross Plains
by Winona Morris Nation

Celtic chieftans rode the wind.
Lightning sharpened the fearless swords,
Of Conan, Conar and Glek and Dork
All the dark avenging lords.

Their mythical steeds rearing wild with power
Their voices shouting with primal glee
He heard them calling in the cosmic storm
And said “My own have come for me”.

Nearer they came, their fury growing
The thunder of their summons rolled.
And he looked above the little town
And felt the fear in him grow bold.

“From this night on I ride with them,
I will fight against our bitter foe.
Seeking the monsters of the mind.
To vanquish them; to bring them low.”

His answer sped across the night.
Swift and certain was his reply
And the Texas town slept on not knowing
What was happening in the sky.

Winona’s best friend was fellow poet Betty Shipley, who later became Poet Laureate of the State of Oklahoma. The pair wrote in two totally different styles of poetry. Winona’s was of the classical style, while Betty’s’ poetry was off the cuff, witty, modernist and often hilarious. Betty and Winona were sort of the “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” of the Oklahoma Poetry Society. They cleaned up at every poetry contest each year, leaving pretty slim pickings for everyone else.

As a student, Winona would place third in the National Collegiate Poetry Contest, behind poets from Princeton and Yale. As a professional writer she received the Lasky Literary Award and has been chosen as one of the top twenty poets in America by Atlantic Monthly.

The Y ChapelBetty was John’s friend in those bleak days when he was cleaning Winona’s house and putting her things and Harold’s in big storage boxes. She’d make him stop and take him to lunch a couple of times a week just to get him out of the house. The two of them attended a memorial service  for Winona on November 10, 1992, in the Y-Chapel of Song on the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma. The memorial was conducted by her mentor, Dr. Cliff Warren. According to John, Betty is gone now, which is tragic since she would have been a great source on Harold and Winona.

John wants to start something similar to Howard Days for Winona — some sort of annual celebration of her life and works. Her century old childhood home is still standing, a big two story farm house out on the prairies of Stephens County, Oklahoma. Winona’s hometown is Comanche, just north of the Red River on US 81. Indeed, there was some talk a few years back in her community of converting the elegant old mansion into a museum, one room of which would be devoted to Winona. When John returns to Cisco, Texas later this year, he plans to go to Cross Plains for a the tour of the Howard House Museum. His goal is do something akin to what has been done to the Howard House to Winona’s old homestead.

The next step for Winona is Oxford, England. She is basically unknown now even in her home state of Oklahoma, which has a very poor record of promoting its artists. So gaining a following, even a small one in England, would be a victory. John and a writer friend are going to “beard the English Poetic Lion in its den” and get a verdict once and for all on the enduring artistic merit of her work — if any.

Here is another example of Winona’s poetry from Fantasy Crosswinds #2 (Stygian Isle Press,1977):

The Red Rain
by Winona Morris Nation

The wet red rose
Drips blood, and I stop.
Alerted by a possible ominous meaning,
I can not define or correlate.

I know of no precedent that would establish
The likelihood of such an occurrence.
It exists in the mind as a bizarre explosion of disbelief.
An idea for which there is no antecedent.

Yet, I see the rose drip red.
And there is no acuity in the mind that can convince
Me it is not so.Cyrano de Bergerac

Like Howard, Winona never saw a collection of her writing in a book during her lifetime. Eight years after her death, If I Still Hold Earth As Dear, a volume of her poetry was published by Vantage Press. Additionally, all of Winona’s works have been put on computer disks in a year-long effort by her sister-in-law Fredrica Morris, Winona’s brothers wife, now an incredible 97 years young and looking to make the century mark. As for Harold’s writings, Winona told John that Harold had sold the copyrights of his books (there are five that John knows of), years before he passed away.

John is currently writing an account of his mother’s life as seen through his eyes. He expects the volume will run over 500 pages and has written 200 pages so far. When the book is finished, John is returning to the USA to get some things sorted out —  particularly related to Harold and Winona, their writings and their lives together.

Winona once told John that Harold’s wish for an epitaph for a possible memorial was: “He loved the purity of his white plume.” Of course, the white plume Harold referred to was from Edmond Rostand’s famous play Cyrano de Bergerac:

All my laurels you have riven away… and my roses; yet in spite of you there is one crown I bear away with me. And tonight, when I enter before God, my salute shall sweep away all the stars from the blue threshold! One thing without stain, unspotted from the world in spite of doom mine own and that is… my white plume.

The plume represents purity and love that have not been ruined by external forces.

 Winona’s poems courtesy of John Nation.
This entry filed under Harold Preece, Howard Days, Howard House Museum.

Jeff ruining someone's shot of the Howard House.

Another Howard Days has come and gone, leaving behind a bevy of great memories. This year the theme was “Robert E. Howard in the Comics” and the guest was, appropriately enough, Tim Truman. Tim is a veteran comic artist and writer, who has been the creative cornerstone of the Dark Horse Conan series for the better part of the last decade. He is currently writing the King Conan series, and along with the spectacular pencils of Tomás Giorello and gorgeous colors of José Villarrubia is producing a sequence of adaptations that are a magnificent tribute to the original yarns of Two-Gun Bob. The choice of Truman as this year’s Guest of Honor was very timely as it coincided with the release of the first issue of King Conan: Hour of the Dragon the long-awaited and highly-anticipated twelve-issue adaptation of Howard’s only Conan novel. But as you will see below, Tim Truman was not the only high-profile personage to show up in Cross Plains this year and this led to one of the more memorable Howard Days in recent years.

This year I decided to make the long drive from Florida to Cross Plains rather than fly. It’s a grueling trip, but it gave me the opportunity to not only bring lots of goodies from my collection, but also to stay the night in Mississippi with my friend Richard Olson. Rich is a comic book collector and historian who co-owned one of the first back-issue mail-order comic businesses back in the 1950s. I always love seeing the amazingly rare goodies Rich has acquired over the years as well as hearing his great stories about the early days of fandom. This year he put me in touch with a friend of his and fellow collector who was a big Howard fan when he was younger and even a member of the now-legendary Hyborian Legion, the first organized Howard fan club in the 1950s and 60s. I’m looking forward to learning more about this poorly-recorded period of Howard fandom.

The following day the road trip resumed with my epic journey across the Lone Star state. The McGuffin on this particular quest of mine was a bottle of the now-legendary but hard-to-find John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey. After a Sullivan-induced debauch at the PCA/ACA conference in the nation’s capital earlier this year with Mark Finn, Chris Gruber,and Rusty Burke, I felt like it was time for the Great John L. to make his Howard Days debut. After calling ahead to every liquor store from Pensacola to Mobile to Biloxi to Shreveport, I finally found a bottle in Dallas — and by Ishtar’s teats it was the 10-Year! Game on.

I rolled into the 36 West Motel in Cross Plains in the early evening on Wednesday and saw several Howardian comrades-in-arms: Barbara Barrett, Rob Roehm, Bill “Black Indy” Cavalier, and of course Al Harron with his entourage of Scottish beauties — Les Girls! After a quick bite to eat, Barbara, Al, Indy, and I hung out in my room for a while checking out some pulps and comics that I had brought as visual props for one of the panels I was on. I believe the John L. made an appearance as well.

The next morning Barbara, Al, and I set out on a mission to pick up our former Cimmerian blog colleague Deuce Richardson halfway between Cross Plains and Dallas. With the old TC gang reunited — and Al properly introduced to that most-decadent of American commercialized confections: the Dairy Queen Blizzard — we returned to Cross Plains just in time for the early opening of the Howard house and museum. This gave me a chance to walk through house and see Howard’s room without the hustle and bustle of the throng that would be there the following day. After that, I hung out at the pavilion as more of the REHupa regulars began to show up, including Mark Finn and Rusty Burke. While we were all catching up, we had a real surprise as the unannounced guest to whom I alluded earlier came sauntering up to the pavilion. It was none other than Joe R. Lansdale!

In case you’ve been living under a pop culture rock for the last couple of decades, Joe is a well-known author of numerous horror and mystery novels, including Bubba Hotep and Dead in the West. He has done a good deal of comic book work as well, perhaps best known for his collaboration with Tim Truman in revamping Jonah Hex in the 1990s. He and Truman also worked together on Conan and the Songs of the Dead for Dark Horse. He has listed Howard as one of his more important influences on several occasions and has written a number of introductions for Howard-related publications, including Mark Finn’s seminal biography Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard. Joe was very down-to-earth and approachable and it was a real pleasure to get to meet him and speak with him on a number of topics from weird westerns to Edgar Rice Burroughs to martial arts.

Dinner & Drinks at Humphey Pete's

With most of the regulars (and a few newcomers) assembled it was time to head to Brownwood for the traditional Thursday night dinner at Humphrey Pete’s. Deuce, Al, and I grabbed newly-arrived REHupan Tim Arney, piled in the van, and headed for Brownwood. At Humphrey Pete’s we saw more familiar faces including Dennis McHaney, Lee Breakiron, Jim Barron, Ed Chaczyk, Keith West, Todd Vick, and Russell Andrew. After dinner a small group drove out to see Howard’s gravesite. For a couple of the new guys this was the first time they had done so and I’m sure it was as moving for them as it was for me. Afterward we adjourned back to Cross Plains and the pavilion where we found Chris Gruber waiting for us. While my memory is a little hazy, I believe Mark, Grub, Deuce, and I ended up back in the motel room that night with a bunch of Fight Stories pulps being passed around and some glasses of John L. being raised.

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WorldCon in San AntonioJust like it happened in 2006, this year there will be a “two’fer” in Texas for Howard fans. While everyone is focusing on Howard Days (and rightfully so), there is another venue where Howard will have a heavy presence waiting in the wings.

This year’s Worldcon (held in conjunction with LoneStarCon 3) will happen over Labor Day weekend in one of Howard’s old stomping grounds, San Antonio. The event runs August 29th through September 2nd and will be held in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. There are several membership options to fit your budget and schedule. With a membership, you are eligible to participate in the voting for the prestigious 2013 Hugo Awards and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Howard scholar and biographer Mark Finn is spearheading the organization of the Howard themed panels, as well as other events. Needless to say, with Mark at the helm, you can be assured of a fantastic Howard experience.

Here is up-to-date information on the Howard activites from Worldcon’s most recent Progress Report:

Six Guns, Sorcery, and Serpents: the Many Worlds of Robert E. Howard

Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) was a pioneer of both heroic fantasy and the weird western. His brief but influential career produced an array of colorful characters: Conan the Cimmerian, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, Kull of Atlantis, El Borak, and many others, all from his home in rural Cross Plains, Texas. This exhibit features several special artifacts drawn from the Robert E. Howard House and Museum, as well as the Cross Plains Library. These special holdings are being exhibited for the first time ever outside of the Museum, especially for LoneStarCon 3!

Contributors to this unique and one of-a-kind exhibit include Dark Horse Comics (publishers of several REH comics lines), Paradox Entertainment (the rights holders of the Robert E. Howard literary estate) and several private collectors. Much of this material has never been seen before, and will be on display only for the duration of LoneStarCon 3. In addition, several noted REH experts will be on hand to talk more about the items on display, and to answer your questions about the Robert E. Howard House, Howard Days, and more!

Of course, as the convention nears, I’ll be posting the full slate of Howard events once everything is finalized. Here is the link to Worldcon’s website for all the information. If nothing else, it is a damn good excuse for coming to Texas twice this year!

Robert E. Howard House Museum

Well, looks like it is time to geared up for Howard Days 2013. Hard to believe it is only two months from now that everyone will be gathering in Cross Plains for the two day celebration of the life and works of Robert E. Howard. The theme of this year’s Howard Days is “REH in the Comics.” To bolster that theme, REHupa OE Bill Cavalier posted recently on the REHupa website that TGR contributor Timothy Truman will be this year’s Guest of Honor. Truman is a Renaissance Man of many talents: writer, artist, musician, editor, etc. Currently, Truman is writing Dark Horse’s adaptation of The Hour of the Dragon.

Here is the preliminary schedule of events and activities:

2013 Howard Days Schedule (Summary Version)

Friday, June 7th:

8:30 – 9:00 am: Coffee and donuts at the Pavilion, compliments of Project Pride.

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.

10:00 am – 5:00 pm: Cross Plains Public Library open.

11:00 am: PANEL: REH in the Comics.

Noon: Lunch hosted by Project Pride. Donations Welcome.

10:00 am – 4:00 pm: Pavilion available for REH items Swap Meet.

1:30 pm: PANEL: Tim Truman, Guest of Honor.

2:30 pm: PANEL: Travels with Bob, Rob and Bob

5:30 – 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.

Following the Banquet and Silent Auction: The Fourth Annual Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards.

9:00 pm: PANEL: Fists at the Ice House (meet at the Pavilion and walk to the Ice House).

Afterward there will be some extemporaneous REH Poetry Reading at the Pavilion.

Saturday, June 8th

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

9:00 am – 4:00 pm: BARBARIAN FESTIVAL held this year at Treadway Park, 3 blocks west of REH House.

10:00 am – 3:00 pm: Cross Plains Public Library open.

10:30 am: PANEL: REH and Dark Horse Comics.

10:00 am – 4:00 pm: Pavilion available for REH items Swap Meet.

Noon: The Robert E. Howard Foundation Legacy Circle Members Luncheon.

Lunch and Festival Activities at your leisure during the day.

2:00 pm: PANEL: REH and Texas.

3:30 pm: PANEL: What’s Up with REH? (at the Pavilion).

5:00 pm: Sunset BBQ at the Caddo Peak Ranch.

Note: The Robert E. Howard House Museum will be open again this year on Thursday (June 6th) from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm. No docents on duty.

 Howard Days Pre-Registration

You do not have to pre-register to partake of the weekend’s festivities. All are welcome to attend, visit the House and enjoy all of the activities free of charge. Project Pride likes to pre-register folks primarily to get a head count of how many will be attending the Banquet on Friday night. All the panels, tours, Swap Meet, Pavilion activities e, etc.,are presented at no cost.

Your registration fee covers coffee & donuts Friday morning, lunch at the Pavilion at noon on Friday, the Friday Evening Banquet and the Saturday evening BBQ at Caddo Peak Ranch.

The cost for pre-registration this year is only $15.00 per person. Please send your name(s) and address with a check or money order:

Project Pride
Attn: REH Days 2013 Pre-Registration
P.O. Box 534
Cross Plains, TX 76443

Or you can or register via PayPal: ProjPride@yahoo.com.

Please pre-register before June 1, 2013.

As you can see, it will be a Howard Days to remember. So don’t procrastinate, sign up now — there are only 120 seats available for the banquet. Be sure and check back here, on the TGR Facebook page and the follow new TGR Twitter account for further details.

The-Robert-E-Howard-Foundation

And for you Legacy Circle Members, if you have not done so, there are only a few days left to get your nominations for the REHF Awards submitted for awards that will be given out at this year’s Howard Days banquet.

Howard’s “The Phoenix on the Sword” introduced Conan to the world in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales and so now that he’s 80, I thought I’d commemorate his birthday with a trip down memory lane and map out some of the high points of my life that were brought about due to my fondness for the mighty Cimmerian.

I first really discovered Howard’s timeless hero when I was about ten, through the Lancer editions, and was even able to make a stop at the Howard abode in Cross Plains back in 1967.  This was a highpoint of my reading life—my family never would have made the Cross Plains stop if Conan hadn’t fired my youthful imagination.

In fact I was so fired up that years later I wrote a story about a Conan-like warrior’s melancholy end and mailed it to Jonathan Bacon’s Fantasy Crossroads and even got it accepted, although my literary hopes were dashed when the fanzine went out of business before the tale got published.  Howard has inspired quite a few people to write—whether this is a good or bad thing all depends on the opinion of the reader, of course.

But this enthusiasm for Conan (and all things Howard) never left me and in 2007, on the fortieth anniversary of my first journey to Cross Plains I was lucky enough to return, and believe me it was quite the moment when I realized that I was only a few feet away from where my family had parked all those years ago.

Fast forward five years and I’m invited to be on a panel at PulpFest celebrating the Cimmerian’s birthday.  That was a pretty big deal for me.  I sat, and shared the stage with, Don Herron, Rusty Burke and “Indy” Cavalier—an impressive trio of Conan scholars and that’s a fact.

While it was very cool being part of PulpFest, I think the coolest thing occurred when some younger members of the audience started asking questions.  These newer Robert E. Howard fans were not known to any of us, but it was apparent to all of us that these guys were excited.  Evidently they had seen the Momoa movie and it had spurred them to search out the talented Texan and read the real Conan stories.  So now they were hooked and their lives were beginning to be changed by the Cimmerian too; in short, they, like me forty-six years before, were enthused.

Conan has made it to 80, and judging by what I saw at PulpFest the tough barbarian is going to be around for a long time.  PulpFest displayed to me that there are a lot of Howard fanatics out there that we don’t even know about, but I’m willing to bet that as the years go by we’ll be hearing from them.  I don’t know if I’ll be alive to celebrate my eightieth birthday, but I’m damn positive that Conan will be here for number 100 and many more.  The Cimmerian has trampled many heroes into the dust under his sandaled feet and I feel he will continue to do so—who out there could possibly stop him, or his fans?

This is the second post for 2012 of the online version of Nemedian Dispatches. This feature previously appeared in the print journal and is now on the blog. On a quarterly basis, Nemedian Dispatches will highlight new and upcoming appearances of Howard’s fiction in print, as well as Howard in other types of media.

In Print:

The Complete Marvel Tales
The publisher of the highly acclaimed complete collection of The Fantasy Fan has just completed his next project — a hardback book that collects the five issue run of William Crawford’s Marvel Tales. Each issue was filled with fantasy from top Weird Tales writers, with Howard’s “The Garden of Fear” appearing in the second issue. Publisher Lance Thingmaker will start shipping pre-orders this week. To order, contact the publisher. The price of the book is $50.00 (includes US postage), but if you mention the TGR Blog, you can save $10.00 and pay only $40.00 (includes US postage). Just like The Fantasy Fan, this volume is sure to be an instant collector’s item.

The Sword & Sorcery Anthology
This new anthology is chock full of sword wielding heroes and heroines battling all manner of terrifying denizens and sorcerers written my true fantasy masters. Howard leads off the collection with “The Tower of the Elephant,” followed by the likes of C. L. Moore, Fritz Leiber, Poul Anderson, Michael Moorcock, Karl Edward Wagner and many more. Published by Tachyon Publications and edited by David. G. Hartwell and Jacob Weisman.

Adventures in Science Fantasy
From the REH Foundation Press comes a collection of Robert E. Howard’s sort of science fiction stories. The centerpiece of this collection is Howard’s interplanetary adventure novel, Almuric, backed up by a dozen or so other science fantasy yarns from Howard’s Underwood. The book features a stunning wraparound cover by Mark Schulz, an introduction by Michal Stackpole and is edited by Rob Roehm.

Kindle:

“Hawk of the Hills”
Now available, a Kindle edition of the El Borak story, “Hawk of the Hills.” This Francis X. Gordon yarn was first published as the cover story in the June 1935 issue of Top-Notch, an adventure pulp magazine.

Clothing:

The 2012 Howard House Museum T-Shirt
Michael L. Peters’ design won this year’s competition for a new t-shirt design for this year’s Howard House Museum t-shirt. In addition to this design, you can see more of Michael work in the upcoming issue of REH: Two-Gun Raconteur. To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the first appearance of Conan, Michael has done a “Rogues in the House” portfolio.

The t-shirts can be ordered via Project Pride’s PayPal account: ProjPride@yahoo.com

The shirts are available in both black on white and white on black. Sizes run Medium though XXX Large. Price is $15.00 per shirt, plus $3.00 for US shipping and handling. Overseas shipping will be more. To get the rate for overseas shipping, send an e-mail to Project Pride.

Coming Soon:

Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword #5
Coming August 29, 2012, a new issue of Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword. Contents include: Paul Tobin and Francesco Francavilla team-up to bring Dark Agnes back to the pages of Savage Sword with their adaptation of “Sword Woman”; Steve Niles partners with Christopher Mitten to adapt” In the Forest of Villefère”; Ian Edginton and Richard Pace adapt the Bran Mak Morn yarn “Men of the Shadows” and the legendary Howard Chaykin writes and draws a brand-new King Conan story.

New Books from the REH Foundation Press
As noted in a previous post, at least three volumes of Howard stories are nearing completion and several of them may make it into print by the end of the year Those books include: a Pirate Stories book, Volume I of the Boxing Stories and an Autobiographical book. Of course there are a number of books from the Foundation Press still available.

Skullcrusher: Selected Weird Fiction, Volume One
Coming in September, publication of the first volume of a two-volume collection of classic fantasy stories by REH. The stories in this collection feature all of Howard’s most famous creations — Conan, King Kull, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn — alongside others such as Cormac Mac Art, James Allison, Red Sonya, and Cormac Fitzgeoffrey — in a definitive anthology of sword and sorcery, weird adventure, and occult horror in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

Conan Meets the Academy

Scheduled for a Spring/Summer 2013 release, this volume from McFarland & Company, Inc. takes on Howard’s Conan as its only subject. This collection of Conan essays focus on the following topics: stylometry, archeology, cultural studies, folklore studies, and literary history, additionally the essays examine statistical analyses of Howard’s texts, as well as the literary genesis of Conan, later-day parodies, Conan video games, movies, and pop culture in general. By displaying the wide range of academic interest in Conan, this volume reveals the hidden scholarly depth of this seemingly unsophisticated fictional character. The book is edited by Jonas Prida

 

Another Howard Days has come and gone, and with it the euphoric high that can only come with 72 plus hours of full immersion in something that you have a true passion for, alongside dozens of others who share your passion and are some of the few people that can truly understand it. This was only my third Howard Days and so I don’t have the larger perspective that many others do, but for me this year’s Howard Days was my favorite. It didn’t have the giddy excitement of my first year or movie-infused madness of last year—but those weren’t necessarily bad things. It was more subdued perhaps, but it also created more opportunities to just hang out with friends new and old and geek out with folks who “get it.”

Actually making it to Cross Plains this year was more challenging than usual due some severely nasty weather that had flights delayed or cancelled. Al Harron and the Scottish Invasion were stuck in the airport for hours and Bill “Indy” Cavalier and his wife Cheryl didn’t get into to town until 4:00 in the morning Friday. Several Howard Days regulars, including Damon Sasser, Frank Coffman, and Ryan Flessing, were absent this year for various reasons and were sorely missed. For me the trip to Howard Days was unusual as well, as I am actually in the middle of a three-week long family vacation as I write this. My wife, the kids, and I had driven from Florida to Maine (yes, driven!) and had rented a lake cabin. So for me Howard Days was a vacation from my vacation as I flew down to Texas from Maine, then back to Maine just in time to drive back down to Florida. Sheesh!

Of course the unofficial kick-off for Howard Days is Thursday night with dinner at Humphrey Pete’s. I got in on Thursday afternoon just in time to hitch a ride to Brownwood with Paul Sammon, Russell Andrew, and Al. I got to talk with (and listen to) Paul more this year than in the past and I have to say that he is one of the most knowledgeable and interesting people in Howard fandom. Paul has had many incredible experiences and has a wonderful outlook and perspective on life in general. I could listen to his stories and anecdotes forever. Al of course is my old TC blog comrade and it’s always great to see him as well as his entourage, the Wyrd sisters. There were more familiar faces when we arrived at Humphrey Pete’s of course: Rob Roehm, Dennis McHaney, Barbara Barrett, Ed Chazcyk, Jim Barron, and several others. Mark Finn showed up not long after we did, as well as Jay Zetterberg from Paradox. I believe Keith West and Scott Valeri were there as well, but I didn’t get a chance to speak with them until later.

After dinner we returned to the pavilion, where Rusty Burke was waiting with the guest of honor Charles Hoffman. I was thrilled to meet Chuck and was fortunate enough to room with him this year, which gave me more an opportunity to pick his brain and hear his amazing stories about his experiences in fandom. It was a true pleasure to meet him and visit with him and I very much hope he will make it back for future Howard Days. Other regulars began to show up at the pavilion too, including Dave Hardy, Chris Gruber, Todd Woods, and Tim Arney. This was the first time I got meet Tim and he was a lot of fun and very knowledgeable. The lovely Aurelia also returned to Howard Days (no doubt due to Al’s charming presence rather than the rest of us troglodytes).

Perhaps the most special visitors of all were there as well: Lou Ann Lord and her family. This was, of course, the first Howard Days after Glenn Lord’s passing and that reality was omnipresent throughout the weekend. I expect that this weekend was Lou Ann’s farewell to Howard fandom, and I believe that she will be moving on knowing just how important Glenn was to all of us and to all we do. None of this would have been possible without Glenn and nothing Glenn ever did would have been possible without the patience and support of Lou Ann.

Friday morning kicked off the first official activities of the weekend, including a bus tour of Cross Plains led by Rusty. Fans and visitors were just beginning to show up as I wandered over to the pavilion fueled by multiple cups of coffee and a deliciously greasy breakfast from Jean’s Feed Barn. Indy was there, having safely arrived the day before and other regulars soon began showing up including Paul Herman, Gary Romero, Ben Friberg, Joe Crawford, Alfred Bonnabel, as well as Chris Fulbright and Angie Hawkes with family in tow. I made my way through the Howard House only to discover a significant new addition: Robert’s own books from Howard Payne University. Apparently, HPU has donated the remainder of the Howard library to the museum and that was a wonderful surprise. Many of them are inscribed to Howard (and in one case by Howard) and being able to go through these volumes looking for things like highlighting or notes in the margin will be a scholar’s dream.

Another treat waited at the Cross Plains library as all of the typescripts in their collection were on display. It was wonderful to see things like a typescript with Steve Costigan whited-out and Dennis Dorgan typed over it. There is nothing quite like the experience of seeing these cultural artifacts with your own eyes.

The first panel was a dedication to Glenn Lord and Paul, Barbara, and Rusty did a wonderful job of celebrating Glenn’s life and work. It was incredibly moving, but never depressing, as it was truly a celebration of a wonderful life. It was hard not to tear up when Lou Ann spoke though and I thought it was truly a magnificent thing that she had come here to share with us fans her memories and experiences of her life’s companion.

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This year is the 80th anniversary of the first appearance of Conan the Cimmerian in the pages of Weird Tales. “The Phoenix on the Sword” was published in the December 1932 issue of The Unique Magazine, giving birth to both a legend and the genre of sword and sorcery. To help commemorate this milestone, Michael L. Peters has drawn a magnificent four plate portfolio based on “Rogues in the House” for the upcoming issue of TGR. “Rogues” first appeared in the January 1934 issue and was the seventh Conan story published.

Of course readers of TGR are well aware of the talented Mr. Peters’ work. In addition to TGR, Michael’s art has appeared in Heavy Metal Magazine, Caliber, Image, and CFD. He also sells prints of a lot of his illustrations and paintings through his website. Several years ago he was hired by Ferris State University to create a series of pen and ink portraits of their former presidents and he has taught drawing and illustration through a local art gallery. Be sure and visit Michael’s website, which is chock full his artwork, including all the work he has done for TGR and The Chronicler of Cross Plains over the past six years.

Just a few months ago, Michael’s design for the new Howard House Museum t-shirt was selected as the winner of a contest to find a new design sponsored by Project Pride. The t-shirts are now in stock and available for purchase.

This weekend (May 18 – 20), Michael is attending the Motor City Comic Con at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan where he will be selling his art prints and doing sketches at the convention’s “Artist Alley.” So if you are in the greater Detroit area, stop in and say hello.

The first plate of Michael’s “Rogues in the House” portfolio is posted above. You can see the entire portfolio, along with a plethora of Howard fiction, essays, articles, reviews and artwork in the new issue of TGR coming later this summer. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks.

Six weeks from today the faithful will gather early in the morning outside the Howard House Museum and the adjacent Pavilion in Cross Plans, Texas. While many will wake bleary eyed and hung-over or tired from a long trip, a stop by Jean’s Feed Barn will leave them fortified after a hearty breakfast and ready for Howard Days to begin.

This year’s Guest of Honor is world renowned Howard scholar Charles Hoffman. Charles is best known for a having written the Robert E. Howard: Starmont Reader’s Guide 35 with Marc Cerasini. He and Marc also edited the first two issues of the journal Cromlech, which was the very first periodical publication devoted to serious scholarship and criticism of REH. Additionally, Charles also wrote, “Robert E. Howard: Twentieth-Century Mythmaker” essay for the first volume of The Best of Robert E. Howard and numerous essays for The Dark Man and other Howard journals, not to mention contributions to his blog. Here is an excerpt from Rusty Burke’s post at the REHupa website announcing Charles as this year’s GOH:

Chuck is one of the most formidable essayists in Howard studies. His “Conan the Existentialist,” which appeared in Amra 61 (March 1974), was the opening salvo of what has come to be called “the new criticism” of Howard, criticism that took him seriously as a writer whose work had depth and substance along with the excitement and adventure. Prior to that essay, most Howard “criticism” consisted of book reviews (though some, like those of Schuyler Miller and Fritz Leiber, showed real insight) or introductions by fans who failed to take him seriously (John D. Clark famously proclaiming, “Don’t look for hidden philosophical meanings or intellectual puzzles in these yarns–they aren’t there.”). Chuck showed that Howard could not only provide rousing action, but rewarded closer reading as well. Patrice Louinet says, “‘Conan the Existentialist’ is the essay that made me want to study and write about Howard. It was a pure revelation.”

In addition to Charles, there are two full days chock full of panels, tours, swap meets and the Barbarian Festival. Below is a summary secedule of events:

Howard Days 2012 Summary Schedule

Friday June 8th

8:30 – 9 am: Coffee and donuts at the Pavilion, compliments of Project Pride

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

9 am – 4 pm: REH Postal Cancellation at Cross Plains Post Office

9 am – 11 am: Bus Tour of Cross Plains

10 am – 5 pm: Cross Plains Public Library open

11:00: PANEL: Glenn Lord Tribute

Noon: Lunch hosted by Project Pride. Donations Welcome.

11:00 am to 4 pm: Pavilion available for REH items Swap Meet

1:00 pm: PANEL: Conan the Existentialist

2:30 pm: PANEL: Conan’s Birthday!

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

6:30: Robert E. Howard Celebration Banquet and Silent Auction at the Baptist Church Family Life Center. (1 block north of the Library on Main St.)

Following the Banquet and Silent Auction: The Third Annual Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards at the Baptist Church Family Life Center.

9:00 pm PANEL: Fists at the Ice House

Afterward there will be some extemporaneous REH Poetry Reading at the Pavilion dedicated to Glenn Lord.

Saturday June 9th

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

9 am – 4 pm: Barbarian Festival held this year at Treadway Park, 3 blocks west of REH House

10 am – 3 pm: Cross Plains Public Library open

10:30 am PANEL: REH at the Gates of Academia

Noon to 4 pm: Pavilion available for REH items Swap Meet

Noon: The Robert E. Howard Foundation Legacy Circle Members Luncheon.

Lunch & Festival Activities at your leisure during the day

2:00 pm PANEL: The Illustrated Conan

3:30 pm PANEL:What’s Up with REH? at the Pavilion

5 pm: Sunset BBQ at the Caddo Peak Ranch

Please Note: The Robert E. Howard House Museum will be open again this year on Thursday (June 7th) from 2-4 pm. No docents on duty.

For a detailed schedule and everything you wanted to know about Howard Days, mosey on over to the REHupa website.

If you can’t make it to Howard Days this year, you can still contribate to the cause. Project Pride needs donations of Howard material for the Silent Auction. Typical donations include books, magazines, old pulps, comics, memorabilia, fanzines or other publications. Other Howard items such as t-shirts, bookmarks, wood carvings, original artwork or limited edition prints or posters are also great items to donate to the auction. Instead of selling your items on eBay, you can donate them to the Silent Auction and know the money will be supporting a worthy cause, plus it counts as a donation, so it’s tax deductible. Please send your donated items to:

Project Pride
P.O. Box 534
Cross Plains, TX 76443
ATTN: Howard Days Silent Auction

Make sure your name and address information is included since all donors are listed in a place of honor in the Howard Days Banquet program booklet.

In 1967 Robert E. Howard was as hot as a Texas Summer. By the end of that year Lancer had published the first four Conan books with the King Kull volume thrown into the mix in September. To this eleven-year old Howard was just about the greatest author that had ever pounded a typewriter, and I convinced my parents to make a detour during our usual summer vacation and we journeyed to Cross Plains where I saw, for the first time, the Howard house, only thirty-one years after he had left it.

It was a great year for me, one of the best in my life, but I wasn’t the only one enjoying the Howard boom—seems that REH was becoming big news on the convention scene also.

Recently I purchased The John W. Campbell Letters: Volume One and was amused to read a letter Campbell had written to Gordon Dickson on September 7th of 1967. Campbell had just returned from a science-fiction convention and was apparently slightly dumbfounded by what he had seen. He states that the “costume parade was full of barbarians and wizards and fantasy—the only science-fiction was the Star Trek set-up.” He continues, amazed, that “It was not a science-fiction convention. It was a fantasy convention throughout!”

He further illustrates this point by adding that “In essence, the swords-and-sorcery”—think Robert E. Howard here—“and Tolkien have displaced science-fiction almost completely.” Undoubtedly Tolkien was a major influence during this time, but Campbell recognized that fans were drooling for fiction either written by Howard or inspired by him. “Now,” he goes on to write, “in as much as it’s the readers who pay for the magazines, it damn well behooves us to give ‘em what they want—and they obviously want super-heroes on the Conan order.”

Campbell, a great editor, controversial thinker, and author of the sci-fi masterpiece “Who Goes There?” knew the times were changing and that science-fiction periodicals were going to have to make adjustments if they wanted to stay current, and he ends his letter stating confidently that they’ll be able to. “And if you can be a sword-wielding hero in fantasy, dammit, you can be a sword-wielding hero in science-fiction. The future is going to have just as desperate a need for heroic leaders as the past ever did!” He’s right of course, Howard is still popular, but, in 1967, he was really kicking some butt.

This entry filed under Howard Fandom, Howard House Museum.