Archive for the 'Karl Edward Wagner' Category


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

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

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

The Hyrkanian—Outstanding Achievement, Essay (Print)

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

The Cimmerian—Outstanding Achievement, Essay (Online)

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

The Aquilonian—Outstanding Achievement, Periodical

Damon SasserREH: Two-Gun Raconteur No. 17

The Venarium  Award—Emerging Scholar

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

The Stygian—Outstanding Achievement, Website

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

The Black River Award—Special Achievement

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

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

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

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

Karl Edward Wagner (posthumous)

Black Circle Award Nominee for next year’s ballot

Roy Thomas

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

The REHupa Barbarian Horde

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

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

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

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

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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.


“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.


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:

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


If you have any money left after Howard Days you might want to pay a visit to Columbus, Ohio the weekend of July 29 – 31. That is the weekend of this year’s PulpFest. This convention is the premier pulp collecting event of the year and the venue is the excellent Ramada Plaza Hotel & Conference Center.

This year PulpFest celebrates the 80th anniversary of The Shadow, with the screening of some rare Shadow films.  Of course, the dealer’s room will be brimming over with rare pulps, including Weird Tales.

As the date of the convention draws nearer, activity is picking up on the PulpFest website.  For all you Phillip José Farmer fans, it was just announced that FarmerCon VI will be combined with this year’s PulpFest.  Also, the Munsey Award nominees have just been posted. Among those nominated is our good friend Don Herron, who was also a nominee last year.

REHupan Morgan Holmes regularly attends the event and wrote about his experiences at the 2010 PulpFest on the REHupa website. Here is an excerpt from his report:

The weekend of July 30-August 1st was the time for PulpFest 2010. Rising from the ashes of the old Pulpcon, PulpFest is picking up speed. If you ever thought of getting into reading pulp magazines, this is the place to go. Held in Columbus, Ohio, which makes for easy driving for me, it is an excuse for a three-day weekend, 2/3 of the way into the summer.

There you will finds dealers of pulp magazines, paperbacks, and pulp reprints which includes both books and pulp replicas.

Membership was just a few people shy of 400 this year. Guest William F. Nolan, author of Logan’s Run among others, proved to be a great raconteur. I was able to ask him about the claim that he rewrote some Frederick Faust/Max Brand stories for several collections back in the 80s. He denied he did, stating he wrote a framing sequence for one novella at the request of Faust’s family for copyright purposes. He told me there is a Faust biography by him on the way. Also a new treatment of Logan’s Run.

Saturday, there was a Robert E. Howard Foundation luncheon at the Pig Iron Grill. Those pictured below include myself, Jason Landers, Jim Barron, Ed Chaczyk, Eric Johnson, Scott Hartshorn, Rusty Burke, Don Herron, and John D. Squires. Don Herron told tales of E. Hoffmann Price while John Squires reminisced about Karl Edward Wagner.

It certainly sounds like it is a great way to spend a late summer weekend.

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With “The Black Stranger,” Howard and Conan return to the forests, rivers and forts of the Pictish Wilderness, which serves as a Hyborian version of the American frontier.

The story might have been intended as a  sequel to “Beyond the Black River.”  However, Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright rejected the story; perhaps a bit peeved at Howard for re-visiting the Pictish Wilderness instead of returning to the tried and true haunts of Conan. After the rejection, Howard re-wrote “The Black Stranger” into a straight pirate adventure, “Swords of the Red Brotherhood,” with Terence Vulmea, a newly created character. Interestingly, Karl Edward Wagner put forth the argument that the Vulmea version came first and the Conan version later. After Howard’s death, literary agent, Otis Adelbert Kline sold “Red Brotherhood” to Golden Fleece magazine, which folded before it could be published. The Vulmea version finally saw print in the mid 1970s.

It was not until 1987 when Wagner included the original Howard version of “The Black Stranger” in Echoes of Valor #1 did the world finally get  to read this most elusive of Conan stories.  Previously, only the heavily rewritten  L. Sprague de Camp version was available, published as “The Treasure of Tranicos.”

Despite the story’s long and checkered past, it is overall a good story with plenty of action and interesting characters.  Nonetheless, “The Black Stranger” does have its critics and fans.  

The late Steve Tompkins was particularly fond of it and wrote about it several times. Here is an excerpt from his  Introduction to The Black Stranger and Other American Tales:

… “The Black Stranger,” [is] the last and longest of the Pictish Wilderness stories in the Conan series…  We hold the American-ness of “The Black Stranger”  to be self evident; the western edge of Pictland scarcely camouflages the eastern shore of North America. As we venture inland from Count Valenso’s beachhead, we meet D. H. Lawrence’s demons at their most grinning, unappeased and aboriginal in a grandfather of all old-growth forests that weighed and preyed on the minds of European colonists in those first footholds of Plymouth, Jamestown, and St. Augustine.

The critic Alfred Kazin once described the Puritan enterprise as American’s Middle Ages, and indeed, the Puritans were the only Americans ever to dwell in a sword-and-sorcery universe.  Later Frontiersmen called Indians savages, primitives, or even vermin, but only Puritans could employ an apocalyptic terminology – devils, demons, fiends – and believe every word. “The Black Stranger “ (and its more acclaimed and anthologized predecessor “Beyond the Black River”) are key texts in modern American fantasy because they create the literally be-wildered colonists’ mindset described by Richard Slotkin in Regeneration Through Violence: “the eternal presence of native people of the woods, dark of skin and seemingly dark of mind, mysterious, bloody cruel, ‘devil-worshipping:’ to these must be added the tearing up of home roots for wide wandering outward in space, and apparently, backward in time.”

For Belesa, the heroine of “The Black Stranger,” “the world of cities and courts and gaiety [seem] not only thousands of miles but ages away” and she is certain that the forests are “the logical hiding place for any evil thing, man or devil.” The story’s “black man” is on loan from classic American literature: “Art though like the black man that haunts the forest round us?” Hester Prynne asks Roger Chillingworth in The Scarlet Letter. Howard’s story is full of hints that he had recently encountered Hawthorne’s novel, whose crowd scenes are populated by “painted barbarians” and “rough-looking desperados from the Spanish Main.” In many ways “The Black Stranger” is the Scarlet Letter after a sex change, a blood transfusion and, some cutlass lessons. Howard’s fey girl child is all but cloned from Hawthorne’s: Tina appears “with the light patter of small bare feet across the sand,” while Pearl plays after “making her small white feet, pattering along the moist margin of the sea.” Howard’s “wild men of the sea” recall Hawthorne’s “swarthy-cheeked wild men of the ocean,” any of whom “might relinquish his calling, and become at once, if he chose, a man of probity and piety” – exactly the agenda of Howard’s Zarono, with his elegant bows and a “tread as stately as if he trod the polished crystal floor of the Kordova royal court.”

Conan, as Lawrence said of James Fenimore Cooper’s Deerslayer, “seems to have been born under a hemlock tree out of a pine-cone.” The early colonists triangulated themselves against both Europeans and Indians and became Americans by taking to the woods and taking them away from their previous owners. Mastery of woodcraft has served as shorthand for Americanization from the Leatherstocking Tales through movies like Deliverance, Southern Comfort, First Blood, Red Dawn, and as an example of how not to survive, The Blair Witch Project. Conan, who is at home even on the hunting grounds of his age-old enemies, the Picts, is self-authenticating and his cultural credentials as a Cimmerian, a white barbarian, are a way around what for so long was perceived as the problem of renegades and runaways  who wanted to join Indians rather than beat them.

The story begins with Conan fighting a party of Picts in a pitched battle to the death.  With the Picts in hot pursuit, he climbs up a rocky crag, which the Picts seem to fear. They leave and a perplexed Conan enters a cave on the crag, finding a lost pirate treasure and nearly being killed by a mist-like demon. He barely manages to escape with his life, but without the treasure in hand.

Meanwhile, a Count named Valenso Korzetta who has fled from his palace in Zingara to live in a wooden fort on the frontier, soon finds he is beset by two rival buccaneers, Strombanni and Black Zarano, who have followed him to the shoreline of the Pictish Wilderness. They believe the Count is there to find the Treasure of Tranicos, a lost pirate treasure.  However, far from being on a treasure hunt, the Count has fled to the wilderness to escape a vengeful demon he had double-crossed. Included among his entourage are his niece, the Lady Belesa, and her handmaiden, Tina, along with soldiers and retainers.

Later in the story, Conan appears at a meeting among the Count, Strombanni and Black Zarano and informs them he knows the location of the treasure they seek. The group comes to a rogues agreement and agree to work together to obtain the Treasure of Tranicos.  But Conan is no fool and knows his cohorts will kill him as soon as the treasure is secured.

Conan is one step of their skullduggery and plans to trap them in the cave with the demon.  However, the Picts return and attack the group at the crag, leading to another hastily declared truce to fight the common enemy. In the final battle, the Picts are defeated, but the Count, Strombanni and Black Zarano all lose their lives. At the end of the story, Conan finds himself being drawn back to the sea and a new piratical career.

Again, the western-like elements of Conan’s Hyborian world and the frontier environs of Howard’s America meld together in a whirlwind of bloodshed, deceit and the supernatural.

Part I / Part II /Part IV

Today is the 15th anniversary of the death of Karl Edward Wagner. Karl was a master of fantasy and horror who has yet to be fully recognized for the genius he was. I corresponded with Karl back in the heyday of his success and found him to be a sensitive, giving person. He was indeed a gentle giant and helped this publisher with advice and support.  Karl was the first person to take on the de Camp Conan machine. He gave Howard fandom its first true editions of Conan stories with three wonderful volumes before his effort was cut short by the machinations of de Camp and his allies.

There a number of websites devoted to KEW, but one of my favorites is East of Eden. A group of his fans are working to organize an annual celebration, much like Howard Days, in his home town of Knoxville, Tennessee, with his good friend and artist John Mayer spearheading the effort. Like Howard, few folks today in KEW’s hometown know who he is.  Let’s cross our fingers and hope something will come about, even it is just a small start, it would be at least something to have in his honor.

We should all do our part to keep his lamp burning, so hoist high your flagons today in his honor and read your favorite Kane story and remember a true giant among fantasy writers..

Howard has finally managed to shoehorn his way into one of the Penguin Classics books by having “Old Garfield’s Heart” appear in the S. T. Joshi edited American Supernatural Tales. While this writer believes “Pigeons From Hell” would have been a better choice, I’ll settle for what I can get at this juncture. The volume also features a number of big name masters of horror including Steven King, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and Karl Edward Wagner.

The editor, Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi, has made no friends in Howard fandom with his derogatory remarks about Howard’s fiction, and while he has recently made a few back-handed compliments regarding REH, he is still clueless about the greatness of Howard’s writings.