I saw somewhere that today is supposed to be National Poetry Day, so I thought I would read some selections by one of my favorite poets. Robert E. Howard is held in pretty high esteem in these here parts. This is a side of Howard’s writing that isn’t as well known as it should be.The volume you see on the left is over 700 pages in length. It was published by the Robert E. Howard Foundation Press. If you don’t have a copy, that’s unfortunate. It’s out of print. (And you ain’t gettin’ mine.)
“Black Amazon of Mars” appeared in its original form in Planet Stories, March 1951. It was later expanded into the short novel The People of the Talisman (1964). This post will review just the original version. I’ll save comparison of the two for another day.
The story starts with Eric John Stark accompanying a Martian companion, Camar, home to the city of Kushat just south of the northern polar ice cap. Camar is dying and wants to return a sacred talisman he stole. The talisman was left by the legendary Ban Cruach to protect the city from a danger in a canyon to the north known as the Gates of Death.
Camar dies in the opening scene of the story, but not before Stark promises to fulfill his quest. The talisman is a jewel. Stark puts it against his temple, sees strange visions that come straight from Ban Cruach’s mind, and takes it off. He hides the talisman in his belt and sets off for Kushat. It isn’t long before he runs into trouble. Continue reading →
There are a number of birthdays today in the fields of the fantastic, including but not limited to C. J. Cherryh (1942), Timothy Zahn (1951), and S. Andrew Swann (1966). But there are two writers born on this date (September 1) against whom all others with birthdays today pale in comparison. Continue reading →
Weird Tales editorial office, l. to r., unknown, Farnsworth Wright, Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch
By the time of his death in 1940, Farnsworth Wright had become one of the most influential editors the field of the fantastic would ever see. Wright was born in 1888 on July, 29. I would argue his influence on science fiction, fantasy, and horror has been greater than any other editor, including John W. Campbell, Dorothy McIlwraith, Fred Pohl, Ray Palmer, or Hugo Gernsback.
Yes, I realize that last sentence could be controversial, especially the inclusion of Campbell and Gernsback. So be it. Farnsworth Wright edited Weird Tales during what is considered to be the magazine’s golden age. The authors he published have had a greater impact on the literature of the fantastic than those of any other editor at any time in history. Continue reading →
I know I should have posted this almost two weeks ago, but I’ve been pretty swamped. I’m teaching a class at the moment that’s taking up most of my time. But since I don’t feel like grading exams on a Friday evening, I’ll blog instead.
This year’s theme was “Howard Detectives: The Ongoing Search for Undiscovered Information”. Since there weren’t any anniversaries this year, things were a little low key compared to recent years. That was fine with me. The attendance was down a little, which was disappointing.
I got in on Thursday afternoon. Like I did two years ago, I stayed at the isolated farmhouse down the hill from the cemetery. There weren’t any creepy things this time, but then I had a better idea of what to expect. There also wasn’t a working air conditioner. I slept with the windows open. At first I thought about going to a hotel, but if Two-Gun Bob could sleep without AC all his life, I could do it for a few nights. Continue reading →
“Men of the Shadows”
First published in Bran Mak Morn, Dell 1969
written circa 1925-1926
The first of Howard’s tales of the Pictish king Bran Mak Morn, “Men of the Shadows” was rejected by Weird Tales in 1926. Upon reading it, it’s easy to see why.
The story starts out strong. Narrated by a Norseman in the Roman army, he and his companions are nearly cut down in a battle with the Picts. Five of the Roman soldiers survive, but as they make their way back to Roman territory, they are one by one cut down until only the Norseman is left.
He’s taken captive by a group of Picts and taken before their chieftan, Bran Mak Morn. (Bran is merely a chieftan in this story, not a king.) None of the soldiers knew what their mission was except the commander, and he took that secret with him to his grave. Bran introduces the soldier to his sister and tells him that a reward had been posted for whoever captured the girl and brought to a Roman merchant. Continue reading →
Miskatonic University Press Weird Tales compendium
“The Footfalls Within” was first published in the September, 1930 issue of Weird Tales. It’s a pretty straight-forward story, but one that has some depth if you know where to look. It seems to take place after the previous tale, “Wings in the Night” (reviewed here). Solomon Kane has continued his eastward trek.
The story opens with Kane coming across the body of a young black woman. The corpse is fresh, and there are marks where whips and shackles have torn her flesh. It doesn’t take long for Kane to catch up with the slavers who killed her. He sees a train of blacks being led away by a group of armed Arabs and other blacks who have allied with them. They’re taking their captives to a slave market. They’re also driving them hard, neither giving them rest breaks nor providing them with ample water.
When another young woman collapses and can’t get up, the slavers decide to skin her rather than give her water or put her out of her misery. It’s more than Kane can stomach, and he shoots the man with the skinning knife. This brings the rest down on him, but he kills several before they can subdue him. The leader of the group, Hassim, realizes he can get a great deal of money from Kane after he learns his captive’s identity, so Kane is treated better than the rest of the slaves. As they march, Kane is approached by an old man named Yusef, who has retrieved Kane’s ju-ju stick from where Hassim had discarded it. Continue reading →
And no, this post isn’t going to be about math. So come back here and quit running in terror. The screaming is disturbing the neighbors.
Things have gotten rolling full speed at the day job, the offspring has gotten back into the swing of things, and I’m trying to juggle numerous (figurative) flaming chainsaws.
So while trying to kill time between interruptions at work this afternoon (there was too much going on to be able to shut the door and work on tasks that require extended concentration), I looked at the top posts for this blog.
It was rather interesting. I didn’t compare or combine the numbers from when I was on Blogger, just looked at things since I set up my own domain. I didn’t look at the other blogs, only Adventures Fantastic. I ignored the most viewed page, which is the homepage, and looked at only individual posts, wherein a pattern quickly emerged. Continue reading →
This is a good thing. It’s Howard’s eleventy-first birthday. I’ve been writing these tribute posts for a few years now, and I’m at the point I’m about to start repeating myself if I haven’t already.
So for those of you who may have stumbled in here from someplace else and aren’t quite sure what’s going on, Robert E. Howard was born on January 22, 1906. He was one of the greatest and most influential writers of fantasy and horror of the 20th Century, although those genres constituted only a small portion of his writings.
Rather than regurgitate biographical details or wax eloquent about his greatness, I’m going to pay tribute by looking at one of his works. This is a practice I’ll be engaging in for other writers about whom I regularly read and blog. Continue reading →
“The Enchantress of Venus”
Originally published in Planet Stories, Fall 1949
I first read this story in high school in the SFBC edition of The Best of Leigh Brackett. It was my first introduction to Eric John Stark, arguably Brackett’s greatest creation. In my opinion it is arguably her best work at shorter lengths.
Stark is an Earthman, raised by a tribe of aboriginals in Mercury’s twilight belt. (The astronomy geek in me is compelled to point out this story was written before Mercury’s 3:2 rotational/orbital resonance was discovered. Mercury doesn’t have a twilight belt because it doesn’t keep the same face towards the Sun.)
Stark is black, although whether he’s of African descent or permanently burned by the Sun, Brackett never explicitly says anywhere (that I can recall). His tribal name is N’Chaka, which implies the former rather than the latter. Continue reading →