Archive for the 'Project Pride' Category

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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.

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From Bill Cavalier:

With June 10th being four weeks from today, it might be time to work on our Howard Days checklists.

First on the list should be: Registration for Howard Days. Now, you don’t have to register to attend the House Tours, Bus Tour, panels, activities or BBQ, but your $15.00 registration fee will get you a seat at the Friday night Banquet at the Community Center. As seating is limited to around 120, you want make sure there’s some chicken fried steak with your name on it – plus you’ll be on site to bid on all the great Howard collectibles in the Silent Auction there! If you’re not already registered, don’t wait until the last minute! Thanks!

Secondly, this is a perfect time to support the aforementioned Silent Auction by making a donation of Howard items (books, magazines, fanzines, 2D and 3D art, comics, etc.) There’s time for you to ship these items to: Project Pride Howard Days Auction, POB 534, Cross Plains, TX 76443. 100% of the proceeds from this auction goes to the upkeep of the House Museum by Project Pride.

You also might want to gather up a few other items to sell or trade in the Swap Meet at the Pavilion. Table space is somewhat limited but there’s enough for you share with other traders. We ask that the items be directly related to or by Robert E. Howard and that you donate 10% of your earnings to Project Pride. (Thanks.)

And while there’s no planning for some extemporaneous events that always pop up at Howard Days, we can tell you about several of them.

STOP THE PRESSES! (That’s newspaper jargon for ‘pay attention’…) While we know the Howard House is open on Thursday June 9th from 2-4 pm, let it be known the fine folks at The Cross Plains Review are also opening their doors at the same time for a tour for any early visitors to Howard Days. Their building is now a designated Historical Site and contains most of the same old-time newspaper printing equipment that was there when REH lived in Cross Plains. So pass through their threshold and step back to a time when newspapers were the #1 for of communication. The CP Review is looking forward to seeing you.

There will be a Launch Party in the Pavilion for the brand new Howard pro-zine: SKELOS #1 – The Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy. This beautiful new vehicle for fantasy stories and art (plus some never-before published REH) will no doubt set the Howard fans and collectors abuzz – and you’ll be able to get first crack at it ONLY at Howard Days. Their Kickstarter is currently ongoing and they’ve got a Facebook page too, so check it out!

We’re going to have a second smaller Auction at the Pavilion on Saturday afternoon/evening (time TBA), but probably tied in with the BBQ) where we’ll have y’all bid on items like the Howard Days banners and a few other special items. One of those items is rumored to be a limited edition bottle of Robert E. Howard beer – a special import brew compliments of Patrice Louinet. Again, 100% of the proceeds go to the Robert E. Howard Museum.

And while not so extemporaneous this year, the REH Porchlight Poetry event will feature an encore presentation of the poem “Cimmeria” being read in SEVEN languages! Last year we just let it pop up at the Saturday night Porchlight Poetry and it was simply fantastic. Come hear one of Howard’s most powerful and endearing poems read in English, French, German, Japanese, Italian, Spanish and Polish. It will be memorable.

Also, be sure to check out Cross Plains’ BARBARIAN FESTIVAL on Saturday from 10-4 in Treadway Park, 3 blocks west of the Howard House. It’s a great time at a good ol’ country fair with vendors, games, rides, activities and great food – family fun for all!

No doubt there will be additional surprises and special guests who show up at Howard Days – there always are – and it’s never too late to decide to come to Cross Plains for The Best Two Days in Howard Fandom. We certainly hope to see your smiling mug on June 10th & 11th – or even a day or two early.

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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.

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Big News: Here is the announcement of the Guest of Honor for this years Howard Days from the Howard Days Facebook page:

The Robert E. Howard Foundation and Project Pride of Cross Plains, Texas are proud to announce the dates and Guest of Honor for the 2016 version of Howard Days, to be held June 10th and 11th at the Robert E. Howard Museum in Cross Plains.

This year’s Guest of Honor is Michael Scott Myers, screenwriter for the movie The Whole Wide World, the biographical film based on the book One Who Walked Alone, which recounted the relationship between Robert E. Howard and Novalyne Price. We are happy to welcome Michael as our GOH, as he is the perfect person to blend with our Howard Days theme this year, Anniversaries.

2016 finds us with a number of important Robert E. Howard Anniversaries: 110 years since his birth, 80 years since his death, 70 years since the publication of Skull Face and Others, 50 years since Conan the Adventurer from Lancer, 40 years since Glenn Lord’s The Last Celt, 30 years since Novalyne Price Ellis’ One Who Walked Alone, 30 years since the very first Howard Days and 20 years since the movie The Whole Wide World (which was based on Novalyne’s book).

Michael’s involvement with The Whole Wide World began with his being a student of Novalyne Price Ellis in Lafayette, LA. Having read her book about Howard, he knew what a wonderful movie it would make. So, our Guest of Honor is doubly qualified this year and we’re thrilled to have him.

There is lots more information to follow and you can read about it here and at the Howard Days blog. While the cold winds of January are blowing now, make plans to come to Texas in June where the warmth will be in both the air and in the fellowship of Robert E. Howard fans!

Howard Days is less than five months away! More exciting news to come, so stay tuned!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary Schedule of Events and Activities

Thursday, June 11th:

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

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

Friday, June 12th:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noon: Lunch hosted by Project Pride at the Pavilion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 13th:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REH & Patch

It was 109 years ago today that baby boy Robert Ervin Howard came kicking and screaming into the world. Since nearly all babies come into the world that I way, I would expecting nothing less from Two-Gun Bob, except that he screamed louder and kicked more than other babies. Little did Isaac and Hester Howard know what destiny had in store for their newborn son, but all of us are glad he was born – and even though he spent a scant thirty years on this Earth, he certainly made an impression through the decades on millions of fans worldwide.

There was a bit of a confusion surrounding actual Robert’s date of birth. He was born on January 22, 1906, but the doctor who delivered him must have been busy that week because when he sat down to record Robert’s birth, he wrote the date as January 24, 1906 and that’s how it is recorded in the Parker County birth records. You can read the whole story here. For Howard’s centennial in 2006, there was a birthday celebration held in Fort Worth in January. The tradition was carried on for a few more years in Cross Plains with the Project Pride folks pitching in to help the fans give Two-Gun a proper celebration.

Of course this year is the 125th anniversary of H.P. Lovecraft’s birth. For the Old Gent’s quasquicentennial, Howard Days 2015 will be marking it and Howard’s friendship with HPL with some panels and other activities. Howard still has a ways to go before he hits the 125 mark in 2031. I’ll be 75 for Howard Days in 2031 and hopefully spry enough to attend.

Happy Birthday, REH.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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With less than three months before this year’s Howard Days (June 13 – June 14), the schedule has just been posted over at the REHupa website. This year’s theme will be “Howard and History.” Being the prolific author that he was, Howard wrote in all arenas of history, including history woven from his own imagination. So it is only fitting that world renowned Howard editor and scholar Patrice Louinet, a man who has been so instrumental in bringing all this history to us, is the Guest of Honor for this year’s Howard Days.

So if you have not made plans to attend, it is not too late. Check out the link above for full details — meanwhile here is the summary schedule of events:

Howard Days 2014 Schedule Summay Version

Friday June 13th

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

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

9:00 am – 4:00 pm: REH Postal Cancellation at Cross Plains Post Office

9:00 am – 11:00 am: Bus Tour of Cross Plains & Surrounding Areas

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

11:00 am: PANEL “In the Guise of Fiction”

Noon: Lunch hosted by Project Pride. Donations welcome.

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

1:30 pm: PANEL Patrice Louinet, Guest of Honor

2:30 pm: PANEL Presentation of the REH Foundation 2013 Awards

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

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

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

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

Saturday June 14th

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

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

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

10:30 am: PANEL “The Legend Continues:

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

Lunch & Festival Activities at your leisure during the day.

2:00 pm: PANEL “Fists of Iron”

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

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

NOTE: All panels at REH Days last about one hour and are held at the Library unless otherwise noted.

(The Robert E. Howard House Museum will be open again this year on Thursday June 12th from 2-4 pm. No docents on duty, but the Gift Shop is open.)

Howard Days Pre Registration: 

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

The cost for pre-registration this year is only $15 per person. Please send your name(s) & address with a check or money order or register via PayPal: ProjPride@yahoo.com

Project Pride
Attn: REH Days 2013 Pre-registration
PO Box 534
Cross Plains, TX 76443

Please pre-register before June 6, 2014.

Update 3/24/2014:

There is a new blog devoted exclusively to Robert E. Howard Days. Keep up-to-date here.

imageThe Robert E. Howard house and museum in Cross Plains, Texas is the single most important physical symbol of the man and his legacy that remains today — and it needs your help. This century-old structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is truly a place of great significance for American and indeed global cultural history. It was here, on an Underwood No. 5 manual typewriter, that worlds were born. It was here that new genres like sword and sorcery and the weird western came in to being. It was here that Solomon Kane first set out on a quest for retribution and vengance. It was here that Kull first sat brooding on his antediluvian throne and where Bran Mak Morn first gazed out over fields of heather contemplating the doom of his people. And it was here that Conan the Cimmerian first strode forth to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.

Few fandom communities are fortunate enough to have an existing physical location, a physical structure, associated directly with the creation of the objects that fuel their passion. Fewer still have a location that they can actually visit and see first hand — a building that they can walk through and experience the way that their icon did so long ago. We as Howard fans are truly blessed and fortunate to have this house still standing, still available as a mecca for us to visit, preserved like a shapsot of Bob Howard’s 1930s Texas.

imageBut none of this is by accident. This house and museum only exist because of the hard work and efforts of the good people of Project Pride in Cross Plains. It was Project Pride who, in 1989, first bought the house and restored it to its original condition. It is Project Pride and its volunteers that have continued to maintain the house over the years, that provide docents to give tours, that arrange to have someone there to greet visitors throughout the year, and whose members go to great lengths to welcome hundreds of fans to their tiny community every year for Howard Days in June.

But Project Pride has very limited resources. They depend on us — the fans — to help them out when funds are needed for more than routine maintainance for the house. This is one of those times. The house is overdue for repair work to replace areas of wood rot. The rot was so bad that the window to Howard’s bedroom recently fell out and needs to be replaced. The entire house is in need of painting. These and other needed repairs are expenses that Project Pride cannot bear alone — so they need your help to preserve this historic treasure that means so much to all of us.

imageRusty Burke once said that if every fan who ever enjoyed a Robert E. Howard story would just give one dollar, then there would never be a need to ask for money again. But as it is, we do have to ask. Every little bit helps. So please send a few dollars or whatever you can spare to Project Pride. They can be PayPaled directly at projpride@yahoo.com or you can send a check or money order to:

Project Pride
P.O. Box 534
Cross Plains, TX 76443

Thank you so much to everyone who does their part to preserve this important monument to Robert E. Howard’s legacy.