Archive for the 'Mark Finn' Category

Strange-Tales-5

In the 1930s, a circle of weird pulp writers developed an interwoven correspondence, with prominent members including Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, E. Hoffmann Price, and Henry S. Whitehead. The exact correspondence varied according to the tastes of each, but they all participating in answering letters, circulating stories, lending books, artwork, and other materials, and of course sharing the latest news and leads regarding their mutual field of endeavor. One of the most intriguing sidelights of this mutual correspondence involved a particularly deranged fan, mentioned by Clark Ashton Smith in a letter to August Derleth dated 15 May 1932:

No word from Bates about my various stories. He sent me yesterday, however, a terrific communication from one G. P. Olsen of Sheldon, Iowa, which had been addressed to me in care of S.T. I’ve had letters from madmen before, but this one really took the gilt-edged angel-cake. Twelve single-spaced pages, much of it phrased with a lucidity almost equal to that of Gertrude Stein or Hegel. Among other things, as well as I could make it out, the fellow seemed to be desirous of correcting certain erroneous ideas about demons and vampires which he had discovered in “The Nameless Offspring.” Also, he wanted to point out the errors of Abdul Alhazred! Some of the stuff about vampires was really weird: “You never thought of a Vampire in your life but he appeared like an Emperor or an Archangel.” Then he exhorts me to refrain from putting vampires in a bad light, since, by virtue of a little blood-sucking, they really confer immortality on those they have chosen! Later, apropos of godknowswhat, he told me that “you must realize it will never be stood for if you act in any other way than that befitting a Spanish Don.” The letter is the damdest mixture of paranoia, delusions of grandeur and mystic delirium that ever went through the U.S. mails. The fellow writes of Ammon-Ra and Ahriman—a regular hash of Oriental mysticism—in the language of an illiterate Swede. He ends with something to the effect that his letter is the most momentous intellectual promulgation of the age. I’m not in the habit of ignoring letters; but there’s nothing else to be done in this case. (SLCAS 177)

“The Nameless Offspring” was published in the June 1932 issue of Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror (which often hit stands the month prior to the cover date), which was edited by Harry Bates. The mention of Alhazred refers to Smith’s “The Return of the Sorcerer” (ST Sep 1931, the premiere issue) so Olsen (or Olson, as Robert E. Howard wrote his name), must have been reading Strange Tales from the the start. The mention of vampires is odd, as neither of Smith’s stories features an actual vampire—”The Return of the Sorcerer” involves another form of undeath, and “The Nameless Offspring” a ghoul—but this appears to have been a characteristic obsession of Olsen, as detailed by Robert E. Howard to Tevis Clyde smith in May 1932:

I’ve gotten some more letters from that fool Olson, in Iowa. I could endure his lunacy, but his illiteracy gets on my nerves. This time he’s frothing at the mouth on account of my “Horror from the Mound”. He lashed himself into a perfect frenzy because I said a vampire was really dead. He says that there is no death in the first place, and that Christ was a vampire. Also that a vampire is in “reallity” an idealist, with an earth-gravity of 50 per cent. Whatever the hell that means. He says that I ought to be ashamed “tweesting” the facts around and “making the allmighty God look like the dirtiest devil from Hell.” He also says that he is going to “proove” the Medical Society is a pack of fools shortly. He alleges to “proove” his “prooves” by Einstein, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, and other great scientists and philosophers. He seems to have the mysteries of life at his finger tips. Well, what the Hell. (CL 2.342-343)

popularfictionpublishingcompany-weird_tales_193205“The Horror from the Mound” appeared in the May 1932 issue of Weird Tales—Howard had, ironically, first submitted it to Strange Tales but it was rejected; he wouldn’t have a story in Strange Tales until June 1932. So it is reasonable that Olsen was a regular reader of WT as well as ST; Howard had previously addressed the subject of vampires in “The Moon of Skulls” (WT Jun-July 1930) and “Hills of the Dead” (WT Aug 1930), and Olsen had apparently previously written to Howard about the latter tale (CL 2.354, AMtF 1.292).

Howard’s story was, as described by Jeffrey Shanks and Mark Finn in “Vaqueros and Vampires in the Pulps: Robert E. Howard and the Dawn of the Undead West”, probably derived from Bram Stoker by way of Universal Pictures and Bela Lugosi. (UIW2 8-9) The vampire de Valdez would be familiar to contemporary readers, a suave nobleman vampire along the lines of Count Dracula; Olsen’s ideas of vampires, by contrast, are very atypical even by the pulp standards of 1932, not in keeping with traditional Eastern European folklore as used by Stoker in Dracula (1897) or Montague Summers’ Vampire: His Kith and Kin (1928), or even the more occult notions of the vampire promoted by Helena Blavatsky in Isis Unveiled (1877).

Whatever Olsen’s immediate sources, his fan-letters appear to be a personal combination of occult metaphysics…and physics, as Howard recounts in a later letter to Clyde Smith:

More gems from Olson: “The A-Rama is Einstein A-Space, the B-Rama is brain or Brama, the C-Rama is Solar Plexus or Pain and in it’s cappacity of being organic Pain it is Visshnue the creator and the D-Rama is that thing we know as Drama, which is the four-armed ballance of Shiva the destroyer, being the basical gender in nature and being in effect also sex, since sex and ellementairy nature is the same thing actually, as soon as I explain it —–” “The chief thing Jesus tried to impress was that want is in itself allmight and that by means of training the mind for greater wants and the body to hold greater hungers, if anything hapens to the consciousness, the atoms hold the hunger and do not break in decay, accordingly as the stomack eats up the filler and the blood thins down, the person comes up with high hungers and if he is a fool he is then a vampire.” “Accordingly, no vampire, however vampirally ignorant he may be, can possibly be as vampirical as yourself and all the people of the earth, since not knowing this, you account not at all the strict code that is Mrs. Cornelius VanderBilt or Mrs. Astor or that of any Duke or Duchess of the world — Why do you suppose that a Duke considers that he may withouth regrets pierce with his sword a man that refuses to pay him respect — A man that refuses to stop and utterly postphone the filling of his hungers the instance the Duke appears in the vicinity?” He also sends me a damnable chain letter and tells me I dare not refuse to continue the chain. Like hell I don’t. I might excuse his insanity, but writers of chain-letters are a blight and a stumbling block on the road of progress. (CL 2.350-351)

This rant at least contains a few more recognizable elements—”Brama” (Bhrama), ”Visshnue” (Vishnu) and Shiva are deities in the Hindu religion, and form a divine trinity; the forehead and solar plexus are typically associated with chakras in tantric yoga, and so suggest Olsen was tapping into Indian or Theosophical materials. The reference to Einstein’s “A-Space” is vague, but appears to be an interpretation of Einstein notation with regards to his theory of General Relativity—although I’ve yet to find a source that uses the exact nomenclature, Einstein notation does involve the use of vectors. Howard, in a letter now lost, apparently communicated something of Olsen to Lovecraft, who replied on 7 May:

As for this Olson—I haven’t ever been honoured by his direct attention, but I have seen some of the letters with which he has been pestering poor Whitehead during the last few months. It appears that he is quite a notorious nuisance among ‘scientifiction’ writers, especially those contributing to the Clayton magazines. he is—in the opinion of Bates, Whitehead (who has had some experience as a psychiatrist) and myself—a genuine maniac; though we don’t know whether or not he is under actual restraint. He may be a relatively harmless case living with his family—though none the less wholly emented in certain directions. He has been giving Whitehead long and frantic lectures on “vectors”, and “A, B, and C-space”. It seems there is something especially sinister and menacing about C—space—so that it will bring about the end of the world very shortly unless all living sages get busy and call in the aid of the “Vectors”. Olson also has some startling and unique biological theories. According to him, the blood is not the life but the death. It is our blood which makes us die—and therefore, since food makes blood, the one simple way to become immortal is to discontinue the use of food! Poor devil—I suppose he is an ignorant, weak-brained fellow who saturated himself with odds and ends of popular occult and scientific lore either before or after the crucial thread of sanity snapped. As Whitehead says, there is nothing to do but ignore the letters of a case like that. (AMtF 1.287)

Whitehead had published stories in both Strange Tales and Weird Tales in the months leading up to May 1932, none of which involve vampires per se, although “Cassius” (ST Nov 1931) comes close. What other writers Olsen made a nuisance of himself of is open to speculation; based solely on what we know of his interests and the magazines he read, likely victims include those whose vampire stories earned the front cover, such as Kirk Mashburn (“Placide’s Wife,” WT Nov 1931; “The Vengeance of Ixmal,” WT Mar 1932) and Hugh B. Cave (“The Brotherhood of Blood,” WT May 1932), though any of the Strange Tales or Weird Tales writers would likely be fair game; and apparently August Derleth was on the receiving end of Olsen’s intentions (SLCAS 289). Robert E. Howard replied to Lovecraft in a letter dated 24 May 1932:

Poor Olson — what you say of him clinches my conclusion that he is completely insane. I first heard from him a long time ago when he wrote commenting on my “Hills of the Dead”; favorably, by the way. “The Horror from the Mound” seems to have enraged him. He hasn’t pulled any “C-Space” or “vectors” on me, though he has had considerable to say about “Ramas” A,B,C, etc.. Neither has he given me the secret of immortality, though he has hinted darkly at it. I’ve never answered any of his letters, though the impulse has been strong to reply with a missive that would make his ravings sound like the prosaic theorizings of a professor fossilized in conventions. But it would be a poor thing to make game of the unfortunate soul. (CL 2.354, AMtF 1.292)

Howard also passed along an abbreviated version of Lovecraft’s record of Olsen’s rantings to Clyde Smith. (CL 2.369) More interesting, perhaps, is that Clark Ashton Smith continued to hear from Olsen, as Lovecraft duly passed on to Howard in a letter dated 8 June 1932:

As for the cracked and ubiquitous Olson—Clark Ashton Smith has been hearing from him now. He is fairly frothing at the mouth over what he considers Smith’s disrespectful treatment of vampires—who, he argues, are the saviours of the world because they take away the blood which forms the death of us all! Obviously, the poor fellow’s epistles admit of no reply. All one can do is to let him keep on writing—which doubtless relieves his agitated and disordered emotions. (AMtF 1.307)

Olsen continued to be a point of discussion for Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith; while their complete correspondence has not yet been published (Hippocampus Press is currently working on the volume, to be titled Dawnward Spire, Lonely Hill: The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, to be edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz), we do have some intriguing fragments of their conversation. In a November 1933 letter to Lovecraft, Smith wrote:

Olsen, as you wisely say, is a totally different matter; megalomania, dementia, mystic delirium and whatnot were all scrambled together in the one interminable screed he wrote me. (SLCAS 236)

Lovecraft apparently came to Olsen’s attention after “The Dreams in the Witch-House” was published in the July 1932 Werid Tales, and received his own letter—much like Smith, Howard’s, and Whitehead’s in content, though apparently too offering the “secret of immortality” which Howard said he had hinted at. Lovecraft forwarded the letter to Smith, who replied on 4 December 1933:

The Olsen letter, which I return, is most illuminating. Someone, I forget whom, has fathered a book on the sort of cosmogony at which O. is apparently driving. Of course, if you accept the idea that the earth’s surface is really the inside of a sphere surrounding the negligible remainder of the cosmos, then the space-conceptions implied in your Witchhouse story are most egregiously fallacious. The letter is really a marvel of lucidity compared to the 10 or twelve page monograph on the nobility of ghouls, vampires et al which I received from Olsen in correction of my “Nameless Offspring” and the errors of Abdul Alhazred. It would seem that the bats in Olsen’s belfry—or the spirochetae in his spinal column—are less gyrationally active than of yore. However, it is plain that he has not relinquished his position of mentor-in-chief to the Weird Tales contributors! His offer to instruct you in person for 25 paltry pazoors is truly magnanimous not to say magnific. (SLCAS 242-243)

The “Hollow Earth” theory has been around in one form or another for centuries, and by the early 20th century was the domain of cranks, occultists, and fiction writers—he might possibly have been thinking of Marshall Gardner’s A Journey to the Earth’s Interior (1913, revised 1920). “Spirochetae” is a reference to syphilis, with Smith implying that Olsen was suffering from advanced stages of the disease, which can cause delusions and hallucinations; obviously, the Californian never knew that Lovecraft’s father had died of neurosyphilis (and it is unknown if Lovecraft himself was aware of the exact nature of his father’s terminal illness). Smith repeated the assertion in a letter to August Derleth dated 13 April 1937:

As for me, I’ll never forget the letters from that paretic Swede, Olsen; one of which letters corrected at great length certain mistaken notions of Abdul Alhazred. But I remember also that you had some experience with Olsen and his patents of infernal and grandiose nobility! (SLCAS 289)

From that point on, Olsen apparently became a familiar enough touchstone to be mentioned in passing in Lovecraft’s letters (LRBO 256), but was rarely mentioned.

Other than these fragments, we know very little about this individual; no Olson or Olsen with those initials is listed on the 1930 or 1940 US census for Sheldon, Iowa. There is currently no evidence of letters from Olsen before 1930 or after 1933, at least in the published correspondence of Howard, Lovecraft, Smith, & co., nor have I yet turned up any regular fan-letters in the letter-columns of Weird Tales or Strange Tales. Probably there’s some truth to Lovecraft’s assessment that Olsen “saturated himself with odds and ends of popular occult and scientific lore”—what with the disparate homebrewed mix of vampirology, Christian apocrypha, Einsteinian physics, Theosophy or Hindu religion, and Hollow Earth Theory—Olsen certainly qualifies as one of the weirdest correspondents in a weird circle.

Works Cited

AMtF               A Means to Freedom (Hippocampus Press, 2 vols.)

CL                   Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard (REH Foundation Press, 3 vols. + Index and Addenda)

LRBO              Letters to Robert Bloch and Others (Hippocampus Press)

SLCAS            Selected Letters of Clark Ashton Smith (Arkham House)

UIW2               Undead in the West II: They Just Keep Coming (Scarecrow Press)

New-Pledge-Levels-Issue-Spread

As a reader and amateur historian of the field of the fantastic, this is the type of publication I want to read.

-Keith Taylor

If you have some time this weekend, you might want to take a look at the Skelos Magazine website, which is up and running.  All sorts of information is located there, including a plethora of different options for ordering the The Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy.

The first issue is now shipping and this is one magazine you don’t want to miss out on.

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Another enjoyable Howard Days has come and gone, and it is safe to say that any who attended were glad they did.  The number of attendees on June 10th and 11th seemed to be a bit above average, reflecting a trend toward straining the capacity of current venues and program formats.  The panel audiences are already larger than could be served by formerly used facilities like the Cross Plains Library and the Howard House Pavilion.  Panels this year were held at the CP High School and the CP Senior Center.  Many new faces were evident at the banquet in the Community Center.  The weather was hot but otherwise pleasant, though mosquito repellent was sometimes required.

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The day before the festivities began, the staff of the Cross Plains Review newspaper kindly offered a tour of their old facilities, complete with antique printing press and other equipment.  Original copies of editions containing articles about or by Robert E. Howard were on display.

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On Friday, following the bus tour of the CP area hosted by Project Pride veteran Don Clark, a panel composed of Rusty Burke, Bill Cavalier, and Susan McNeel-Childers discussed the first 30 years of Howard Days celebrations.  REHupans Burke and Vern Clark made an initial foray to Cross Plains in 1985.  Impressed by the wide open spaces of Texas and even more by how imaginative Howard must have been to have envisioned stories in such settings, Burke thought that other serious fans might be lured to visit Cross Plains, and so organized a trip there the next year by ten REHupans, including Cavalier and Glenn Lord.  The Friends of the Library, headed by Joan McCowen, gave a gracious reception to those they called international scholars on June 6th, which the mayor proclaimed to be “Robert Howard Day.”  Those the visitors talked to included Cross Plains Review editor Jack Scott, head librarian Billie Ruth Loving, REH heirs Alla Ray Kuykendall and Alla Ray Morris, and Charlotte Laughlin of Howard Payne University in Brownwood.  Laughlin would act to preserve what remained of REH’s personal book collection that his father had donated to HPU and which now resides in the Howard House.  Seeing the commercial possibilities in attracting more such visitors, the founding members of Project Pride (originally created to spruce up the downtown area of Cross Plains) bought the Howard House in 1989, which Project Pride then renovated and operated as a museum with the aid of donations.  Alla Ray Morris contributed $10,000 to Project Pride just before her death in 1995. The money was used to install central heat and air conditioning and to remodel the inside of the house. Project Pride also received a portion of Alla Ray’s estate and that money was used to build the pavilion next to the house and finish the remodeling. The pavilion was completed in 2000 and dedicated to Alla Ray. By that time Howard Days had become an annual 2-day event organized by Project Pride and REHupa, who have done so much to welcome and educate fans of the Texas author and to change the once-low opinion of many of the residents regarding Howard and his admirers.

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Guest of Honor Michael Scott Myers spoke at the banquet and was interviewed by REHupan Mark Finn at a Friday panel marking the 20th anniversary of the film The Whole Wide World, which Myers had adapted from the memoir One Who Walked Alone, written by Howard’s sometime girlfriend Novalyne Price Ellis.  Myers was a speech student of Ellis during her last years at Louisiana State University.  As a movie publicist, Myers saw the potential in making a small independent film based on her book, but many individual factors have to align before such a movie can be made.  Myers optioned the book for $20 and wrote the script between 1989 and 1994.  Director Dan Ireland and the actor portraying REH, Vincent D’Onofrio were on board early on.  Replacing actress Olivia d’Abo, who had become pregnant, in Novalyne’s part was Renee Zellweger in her first major role.  TWWW was filmed over 3 and a half weeks in the summer of 1996 for $1.2M.  While it did well at the Sundance Film Festival, an unfavorable release date held the film back until positive reviews led to its success on home video and cable TV.  It served as many people’s introduction to REH, and the film helped to bring a less narrow, more nuanced, and very human portrayal of the author to the fan public.  Ellis did see and enjoy the movie.  After the interview, TWWW was screened in the high school auditorium.

The Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards were bestowed Friday afternoon.  The winners are spotlighted elsewhere on this blog.

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REHupans Mark Finn, Chris Gruber, and Jeffrey Shanks staged another of their always entertaining “Fists at the Ice House” presentations outdoors at the site where Howard boxed with his friends and locals.  This sport, REH’s part in it, and his boxing fiction were the subjects.  Experts on these stories, the speakers recommended them highly to all.  Even if one is not into the sport, the surprisingly good humor of the yarns will be enough to get one through them.  And Howard’s enthusiasm and versatility shed light on important aspects of the author’s personality that one might have no clue about if one is familiar only with his fantasy tales.  Howard’s boxing and boxing stories served as vital releases for the pressures and frustrations that were dogging him at the time.

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The first panel on Saturday concerned REH and artist Frank Frazetta, who painted the covers of most of the Lancer Conan paperbacks of the late 1960s which did so much to attract readers to Howard’s fiction.  The panelists were REHupans Rusty Burke, Bill Cavalier, Gary Romeo, and Jeff Shanks.  Cavalier called the publication of Conan the Adventurer the single most significant event in the history of Howard publishing and the one that drew him in personally.  Shanks noted that this was the 50th anniversary of that event.  Frazetta had illustrated comic books, but it was his covers of Edgar Rice Burroughs paperbacks that got him noticed.  Frazetta’s artistic resonance with the material made for an impressive product that was greater than the sum of its parts.  Burke said that the Conan stories had come out earlier in book form as Arkham House and Gnome Press hardbacks.  Writer L. Sprague de Camp was a fan of REH and, working with agent Oscar Friend, took on the editing of the Conan reprints.  Romeo explained that de Camp assiduously shopped the stories to publishers, finally hooking Lancer’s Larry Shaw, as well as Frazetta by letting him keep the ownership of his art.  Romeo thinks that Frazetta’s art was a big part of Conan’s appeal, but not as much as the prose itself.  Burke added that, though you can’t judge a book by its cover, the cover can be important in providing an essential good first impression of and introduction to the character.  Shanks observed that, even though the images were static, Frazetta’s dynamic, exciting poses were a game changer for fantastic art.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Thursday, June 9th

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

Friday, June 10th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 11th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Howard Days 2016 Panel Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Setting up the Foundation table in the dealers’ room.

 

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

 

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

 

Jeff makes a new friend.

Jeff makes a new friend.

 

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The Two-Gun Bob Rides Again! panel.

 

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

 

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

 

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Mark spinning a tall tale at the Foundation table.

 

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Howard Heads enjoying the guest reception.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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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

When Isaac Howard decided to study medicine, he was following a family precedent. His uncle J. T. Henry, a great favorite of Isaac’s mother, Eliza Howard, was a distinguished physician who was graduated from the University of Nashville in Tennessee in 1883. In practice near the Arkansas-Missouri line, Dr. Henry became a role model for his nephew Isaac, who doubtless sought Dr. Henry’s advice and may have studied under him.

Physicians of that day often welcomed their kin as medical students. Such associations with older physicians afforded young would-be doctors opportunities for observation, access to medical books, and such didactic sessions as the preceptor thought necessary in exchange for the apprentice’s help in maintaining the dispensary, cleaning the office, and tending the horse and buggy if there was one. After a few years, when the older man deemed his candidate worthy, he would issue him a certificate to practice medicine. For an ethical man with strong family ties, the certification by a kinsman would be a real throwing of the torch.

Polk’s Medical and Surgical Register gives its first listing of “I. Howard” in 1896 as practicing in Forsyth, Missouri, in Taney County, just over the Missouri line, a short distance from his uncle’s home in Bentonville, Arkansas. It is unclear whether Isaac Howard apprenticed himself to his uncle or whether Dr. Henry had passed him on to another doctor in Forsyth. The dates suggest the former. If Isaac Howard had left Texas in the early nineties, when he turned twenty-one, he could have finished his training and been ready to set up his own practice by 1896.

The young physician did not long remain in Missouri. Perhaps he was homesick. Whatever his reasons, on April 19, 1899, Isaac M. Howard of Limestone County, Texas, was examined by the State Board of Medical Examiners in Texarkana, Texas, and awarded a certificate of qualification to practice medicine. Then he went home.

—L. Sprague de Camp, Dark Valley Destiny

Readers of the Two-Gun blog might remember my post from 2012, “Isaac M. Howard in the 1800s,” wherein I discovered that the “I. Howard” mentioned above couldn’t have been our Isaac Howard because that doctor also appeared in the 1886 edition of Polk’s, which is much too early for our Isaac to be practicing medicine. This removes the only piece of evidence that might place Isaac near his Uncle J. T. Henry at that time; though it’s still possible he received his training there.  This has pretty much become an accepted part of the biography. To wit:

By 1891, Isaac Howard had decided that he was not cut out to be a farmer. He left the family farm, sold his share in the property to his brother, and decided to practice frontier medicine.

Isaac’s medical education, a combination of on-the-job training, apprenticeship to his uncle, himself a doctor, and attendance at a variety of schools, lectures, and courses, would spread out over the next four decades. His initial training took four or five years, and allowed him to practice medicine as early as 1896. From that time on, Dr. Isaac Howard moved frequently from place to place, venturing as far out as Missouri and back to the family farm in Limestone County again.

—Mark Finn, Blood and Thunder

That J. T. Henry was a doctor is well established; that Isaac M. Howard apprenticed under him, not so much. While I am not a fan of speculation, I recently ran across not one but two doctors who, in my opinion, make more sense as possible trainers of Dr. Howard. So, as long as there’s no proof either way, I’ll throw my speculations out there too.

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Robert E. Howard said that his family moved to Texas in 1885. The earliest I can place them there is 1889. According to a “Widow’s Application for Pension” filled out by Isaac’s mother in 1910, Isaac’s father, William B., died “near Mt. Calm, Texas, on 3rd day of August in year of 1889.” While William’s death in Texas contradicts de Camp’s version, it agrees with Robert E. Howard’s account in an October 1930 letter to Lovecraft:

My branch of the Howards came to America with Oglethorpe 1733 and lived in various parts of Georgia for over a hundred years. In ’49 three brothers started for California. On the Arkansas River they split up, one went on to California where he lived the rest of his life, one went back to Georgia and one, William Benjamin Howard, went to Mississippi where he became an overseer on the plantations of Squire James Harrison Henry, whose daughter he married. In 1858 he moved, with the Henry’s, to southwestern Arkansas where he lived until 1885, when he moved to Texas. He was my grandfather.

There is a document dated 1885, but it wasn’t recorded until 1898, so I’m a tad skeptical. The document is basically a contract between Isaac Howard and his brother David Terrell Howard of Prairie Hill, Texas, in Limestone County. Dave agrees to purchase Isaac’s land in the county and has ten years to pay for it, starting in 1885. How a 13-year-old Isaac managed to possess that land is a mystery. De Camp speculates that it was Grandpa James Henry’s originally, and James did die in 1884, a fairly prosperous guy, so that’s reasonable, but there’s no mention of Texas land in his Arkansas will.

On November 6, 1893, Isaac’s sister Willie married William Oscar McClung in Limestone County. They moved to Indian Territory shortly thereafter, but probably not before attending brother Dave’s wedding on November 12 (or possibly December 12). This is where things get interesting.

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Dave’s bride was Fannie Elizabeth Wortham (seen above quite some time after her marriage). From 1894 to 1919, the couple would produce 12 children. This isn’t so unusual when you figure that Dave had eight siblings and Fannie had seven. We’ll get back to one of Fannie’s siblings in a minute, but first, let’s look at her dad, Mortier (or Mortimer) LaFayette Wortham.

Born in Tennessee in 1822, Wortham moved to Texas while in his early 20s. He shows up on an 1846 tax list in Harrison County, east Texas. He appears to have hooked up with an unknown lady and had at least one child, John, before she died or left. The 1850 Census has an “L. M. Wortham” who is farming with the Martin family in Harrison County. He has with him “J. Wortham,” who is 2 years old. No wife is mentioned.

The 1860 Census of Anderson County has the now 12-year-old John, with father “L. Wortham,” joined by wife “E. Wortham” (the former Elizabeth Chaffin). The senior Wortham’s profession is listed as “Doctor.” On a pension application, Elizabeth says that she married Mortier in 1855. Her family had been in Texas since at least 1843, in Anderson County, which is two counties east of Limestone, with Freestone County in-between.

On March 6, 1862, “M. L. Wortham,” of Palestine, Anderson County, reported for infantry duty in the Confederate Army, Company K, 22nd Regiment, under Colonel R. B. Hubbard. It looks like he served all over the place, doing some time in Louisiana and Arkansas, before returning to Anderson County. He shows up on an 1868 voter registration list there.

“M. L. Wortham” appears on the Anderson County tax rolls for 1861, 1865, 1867, 1869, and 1870. While there are several Worthams on the lists throughout the 1880s, our guy doesn’t appear; this is probably because he had moved to Limestone County, where he and the family appear on the 1880 Census. His profession there is listed as “Farming.” The 1890 Census was mostly destroyed by fire, but in 1891 Mortier is back on the tax lists in Anderson County, appearing as “Dr. M. L. Wortham.” So, Dave Howard’s soon-to-be father-in-law went back to medicine just before his daughter’s marriage. How convenient for Dave’s younger brother, who just happened to be interested in the medical profession.

[A quick, non-chronological note: On Fannie Wortham Howard’s 1960 death certificate, her father is identified as “Dr. W. M. Wortham”; on another daughter’s 1932 death certificate, he is identified simply as “Dr. Wortham.”]

And there’s more. When the Howards arrived in Texas they settled in around Mount Calm, which is in Hill County, but right on the line with Limestone County. They soon spread into Limestone, in the little community of Delia, which is close to Prairie Hill. The 1900 Census has Dave Howard’s growing clan listed with the Prairie Hill inhabitants. One of those was John C. Clark, who was married to another of Mortier Wortham’s daughters and happened to be, you guessed it, a doctor.

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Born in 1847 in Jamaica to English parents, Clark was living in Texas by the end of the Civil War. He married Louisa E. Wortham in 1877 and was living in rural Limestone County at the time of the 1880 Census, where he is listed as a “Physician.” The 1890 edition of Polk’s Medical and Surgical Registry has him as the only doctor in Prairie Hill, with no report received in answer to their inquiry regarding his graduation from medical school. This probably means that he didn’t attend a school, but was trained by another doctor . . . perhaps his father-in-law?

So, in the early 1890s we’ve got a young Isaac Howard, purportedly not interested in the family business of farming. He’s got a doctor uncle in far-off Arkansas who seems to be doing pretty well for himself, and his older brother Dave marries into a family with at least two doctors, one of whom is practicing in the very town in which they live, the other in a nearby county. [I say “at least two” because one of Mortier’s sons, James Franklin Wortham, is identified as a doctor on an ancestry.com family tree, but there is no documentation provided to support that claim and I haven’t looked into it yet.] And right around this time, the mid-1890s, Dave is paying for Isaac’s land. Hmm, I wonder what Isaac was doing with the cash?

Meanwhile, brother Dave purchased some more land in 1897 from Gussbaum and Morris, whoever they were. Then, the 1885 document was filed for record on January 15, 1898, and on February 12, 1898, Isaac Howard filed a quit claim, closing the land deal with his brother. The next time Isaac M. Howard appears on paper it is as a doctor. As de Camp said, a year later, “on April 19, 1899, Isaac M. Howard of Limestone County, Texas, was examined by the State Board of Medical Examiners in Texarkana, Texas, and awarded a certificate of qualification to practice medicine. Then he went home.”

The first place he appears is Freestone County, where he registered his new credentials on July 20, 1899. Right next door to Limestone, this makes sense, but, as long as I’m speculating, let me go a step further. On a recent trip to Groesbeck, the county seat of Limestone, I asked about their Medical Register—the book that lists the doctors who had registered their credentials in the county. Isaac M. Howard was not listed in that book, but the book only went back to 1907. Turns out the older records were destroyed by fire. So I’ll bet Isaac did indeed go home—right back to Limestone County, then to Freestone. But again, that’s just speculation.

Dr. Howard next appears up north near Indian Territory in Montague County, where his uncle, George Walser, was living. I have no idea if the two had any contact at this time, though I would think it odd if they didn’t. Dr. Howard registered in the county on May 30, 1901. This appears to be just before Isaac started practicing in Petersburg, just across the Red River in Indian Territory, and not far from where his sister Willie had moved after marrying Oscar McClung. The doctor couldn’t have spent too much time in Indian Territory, though, he had a date with destiny back in Texas, Palo Pinto County, where a certain lady named Hester was spending time with her siblings in Mineral Wells.

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Big news from TGR contributor Jeff Shanks:

Modiphius Entertainment announces the definitive sword & sorcery roleplaying game, planned for launch August 2015

KNOW, oh prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of….

Modiphius is proud to announce a licensing deal with Conan Properties to publish Robert E. Howard’s CONAN Adventures In An Age Undreamed Of. This is CONAN roleplaying as Robert E. Howard wrote it – savage pulp adventure battling ancient horrors in the Hyborian Age! We plan to bring the game right back to its roots, focusing on the original stories by Robert E. Howard.

Modiphius has scored a leading team of Hyborian Age scribes to chronicle these adventures including Timothy Brown (designer of the Dark Sun setting for Dungeons & Dragons), award-winning Robert E. Howard scholar and essayist Jeffrey Shanks (Conan Meets the Academy, REH: Two-Gun Raconteur, Critical Insights: Pulp Fiction, The Dark Man: The Journal of REH Studies, Zombies from the Pulps!), Mark Finn (Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard, The Barbaric Triumph, The Dark Man: The Journal of REH Studies and REH: Two-Gun Raconteur), Jason Durall (Basic Roleplaying, Serenity, The Laundry), Chris Lites (Paizo, Savage Worlds, Omni, Slate), and many more to be announced.

Players and GM’s alike will feel the might of the 2d20 game system, the cinematic roleplaying rules devised by Jay Little (Star Wars: Edge of the Empire) for Mutant Chronicles, and sharpened up for intense sword and sorcery action. The 2d20 system lets players experience the true pulp adventure of the CONAN stories.

Howard expert Jeffrey Shanks will approve all content, ensuring it remains true to the spirit of the source material and brings the Hyborian Age to life. World-famous CONAN artist Sanjulian (Conan Ace Paperbacks, Vampirella, Eerie, Creepy) has been commissioned, as well as Carl Critchlow (Batman/Judge Dredd, Anderson: Psi Division). Joining them are other CONAN greats such as Mark Schultz (The Coming of Conan, Xenozoic Tales, Prince Valiant), Tim Truman (Dark Horse Conan, Grimjack, Jonah Hex), Phroilan Gardner (Age of Conan, World of Warcraft), Alex Horley (Blizzard, Heavy Metal, Magic: The Gathering) and many more.

Modiphius is working with other Conan Properties licensing partners including Monolith Board Games, creator of the hit CONAN boardgame which has surpassed $2 million on Kickstarter, and Funcom, creator of the long-running, free-to-play, MMO Age of Conan. Modiphius plans some select supplements including missions designed for the Monolith boardgame, as well as floorplan tile sets allowing you to use Conan miniatures in your roleplaying adventures!

Modiphius is already working on the roleplaying corebook for Robert E. Howard’s CONAN Adventures In An Age Undreamed Of to be released this Fall. A Kickstarter is planned for the summer to fund a larger range of roleplaying supplements, campaigns, and accessories to follow the core book.

Ho, Dog Brothers! (and Sisters) Don your mail, hone your blade, and pray to whatever fickle gods might listen. Harken to the sound of clanging steel, cries of battle, and death curses spat from bloody, frothing lips! Tread the jeweled thrones of the earth at www.modiphius.com/conan or die in towers of spider-haunted mystery. Crom cares not!

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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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