An Interview with Robert Weinberg
conducted by Leo Grin
Robert Weinberg has had one of the most storied careers in all of fandom. Author of at least 16 books and editor of a staggering 120 books and anthologies, he also happens to be one of the most well-known Howard fans in the world. His Howard collection is the stuff of legend, while his many Howard books, fanzines, and articles have entertained REH’s fans for decades. There is scarcely an area of Howard fandom that doesn’t bear his mark in one form or another, and his generosity towards other Howard fans is widely known and revered. Oh yeah, he's also been the Vice President of the Horror Writers Association twice, and once won some obscure little thing called a World Fantasy Award. Then, just to prove it wasn’t a fluke the first time, he did it again.
In honor of Bob’s being named Guest of Honor for Howard Days 2004, Project Pride presents here an extremely interesting interview, covering all things Weinberg and all things Howard. Enjoy.
Q: With so much to talk about, it’s hard to know where to start. So let's be real original and start at the beginning with a capsule biography. Birthplace, education, employment, family?
I was born in Newark, New Jersey in August 1946. Graduated with a B.S. in Science from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1968, an M.S. in mathematics with Honors from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1970, and was working on my Ph.D. in mathematics at Illinois Institute of Technology when I met my wife, Phyllis, in 1972. I never finished my degree, but instead started a bookstore specializing in fantasy and horror literature. Our son, Matt, was born in 1979. In 1997, we sold the book business after 25 successful years to concentrate on other interests. These days my wife teaches piano and I write fiction, non-fiction and comics. My son has a degree in Computer Science but is currently working in the real estate field.
Q: Tell us a bit about how you discovered fandom in general and Howard in particular.
I discovered science fiction in grade school when I was 11 years old and read “The Devil and Daniel Webster” by Stephen Vincent Benét in our class literature book. I was hooked on fantasy and science fiction. At the time, students were able to buy paperbacks from the Teenage Book Club once a month for 25 cents each. My parents gave me $1 a month for TAB, and I bought all the SF and fantasy they offered. Ace Books at the time offered single editions of many of their more famous novels, including a number of Andre Norton titles. I soon started collecting Ace Double novels which I found in used bookstores in the Newark area. One of the few Ace titles I couldn’t find anywhere was D-36, Conan the Conqueror by Howard/Sword of Rhiannon by Leigh Brackett. I ordered that book from the publisher in 1958 for 35 cents (cover price) and a nickel postage. It was my first exposure to Howard and Conan and I loved it. In 1960, I was able to buy a remainder copy of The Coming of Conan in hardcover for $1. After reading that, I became a fanatical Howard fan, searching everywhere for his work. 44 years later, I still am!
Q: You are widely considered to have the single best Howard collection in the world outside of Glenn Lord. When did you start collecting Howard?
By the mid-1960’s, I owned all of Howard—including the Arkham House Skull-Face and Others—in hardcover, everything except for the legendary British edition of A Gent From Bear Creek. I was stunned at the time to realize I owned everything available by Howard. Fortunately, I was already buying material from Don Grant and he rescued me by starting his reprint program of Howard material shortly afterwards. When Don refused to publish Howard every month, I got into collecting pulp magazines so I could read the stories in their original format instead of as reprints. By the early 1970’s, I was determined to own every possible Howard item I could obtain.
Q: Describe some of the prize items that were or are in your collection.
Well, without question, the cornerstone of my Howard collection is the manuscript for “The Phoenix on the Sword” signed by Robert E. Howard. H.P. Lovecraft’s close friend Robert Barlow collected manuscripts and often wrote to authors who worked for Weird Tales magazine, where all of Howard’s Conan stories were published, asking them for autographed manuscripts. Howard sent Barlow three Conan manuscripts. After Barlow’s death in 1951, Arkham House publisher August Derleth obtained the signed manuscripts. He sold the Howard manuscripts in the late 1960’s to a Wisconsin collector. Recently, that collector, who I’ve known for many years, sold the manuscripts to me. I could only afford to keep one of the three. It was a tough choice between the first Conan story, “The Phoenix on the Sword” and “Scarlet Citadel,” the second Conan story, but I finally decided on “Phoenix.”
I have just about every book and pulp by Howard except for the British edition of A Gent From Bear Creek. One of my rare books is the British edition of Conan the Conqueror published in the mid 1950’s. Among my pulps, I think my copy of the April 1926 Weird Tales containing Howard’s first cover story, “Wolfshead,” is my favorite.
Q: Tell us a bit about early REH fandom.
When I first started collecting Howard, there really wasn’t much of an organized Howard fandom. There was Glenn Lord, of course, and a few other professionals who thought highly of Howard’s writing, but despite the success of the Howard books from Gnome Press, there really was not a lot of vocal Howard collectors and fans around. I was lucky enough to live in the suburbs of Newark, NJ in those days and belonged to the Eastern Science Fiction Association (ESFA). ESFA was the big SF club in New Jersey and Sam Moskowitz was a member. So was Alan Howard and Joe Kankowski, both notable Howard collectors. I learned a lot about Howard’s work from them in the late 1960’s.
When Howard was published by Lancer paperbacks in the later half of the 1960’s is when Howard fandom really developed. By then, I had become a fairly active fan and Howard advocate, and I soon found myself promoting Howard stories in a bunch of fanzines like Return to Wonder, Nyctalops, and others.
Q: Which way were the purist vs. pastiche winds blowing at that time?
Most of the early Howard fans—including myself—agreed with Farnsworth Wright, who had been Howard’s editor in the 1930’s. When asked by fans after Howard’s death if anyone else was going to continue Howard’s Conan series, Wright said he felt that Howard was unique and Conan stories written by anyone else would never equal the originals. I think most fans in the 1960’s did not care for the pastiches.
Q: Who were some of the movers and shakers at that time that might not be familiar to current fans?
Steve Riley, Joe Kankowski, Joel Frieman, Alan Howard, and Paul Ganley were Howard fans I remember from those days. Lin Carter, though he was more pro than fan by that time, was also a major Howard booster. Unfortunately only Joel and Paul are still with us.
Q: In 1969 you published one of the few fanzines on Howard other than Glenn Lord's The Howard Collector. Yours was called The Reader’s Guide to Robert E. Howard. Tell us a bit about that.
The publication of Robert E. Howard in paperback brought thousands of new Howard fans into the fantasy field. A lot of them were enthusiastic about REH but knew nothing about him other than what little information was available in the introductions to the Lancer paperbacks. It’s hard to realize that at the time there was no organized fantasy fandom and there weren’t dozens and dozens of collections of Howard short stories on the market. The success of Howard had sparked a boom in swords-and-sorcery publishing, but most of the stories reprinted or new were dismal. So I thought that a fanzine discussing Howard and his writings would sell well. At the time, Richard Witter’s F&SF Book Co. in Staten Island, New York was the biggest distributor of science fiction and fantasy material in the world, so I ended up selling him most of the small print run and he sold it to clients all over the globe.
Q: In 1969, you also co-edited the special Robert E. Howard issue of Return to Wonder. What kind of magazine was Return to Wonder, and did your REH issue make an impression on the magazine’s readership?
Steve Riley was the publisher of Return to Wonder, a science fiction and fantasy fanzine. We became friends in the mid-1960’s when I submitted some short fiction to him. With the Howard boom of the late 1960’s in full swing, Steve asked me to help him put together an issue of his magazine dedicated to Robert E. Howard. I was glad to help, and I wrote an article about Howard, a Howard book checklist, a review of some Howard stories, and one of my Morgan Smith stories, a story in the Solomon Kane style, for the issue. Plus, Steve included a bunch of other material and a photo of Howard. The issue did quite well and the next year, Steve published a tribute to Edmond Hamilton.
Q: In 1970 you published a rather high-quality small press magazine entitled Deeper That You Think #1 — A Tribute To Robert E. Howard. From the title, it sounds like a critical fanzine, something as rare today as it must have been back then. What is the story behind that?
I was the co-editor of Deeper Than You Think which was published by my good friend, Joel Frieman. Joel was a long-time Howard fan and one day decided to print a Howard fanzine. I helped him assemble the contents. Joel wanted DTYT to be more a literary magazine than a fanzine, so he recruited several professors from the college he attended (Seton Hall in New Jersey) to contribute articles. He also got permission from Glenn Lord (with the help of Joe Kankowski) to print in facsimile some of Howard’s notes on the Celts, and also published articles by Lin Carter and Roy Krenkel. It was a fun project and quite nice. The issue looked great, but with the limited number of Howard fans, only a hundred or so copies of the issue were printed and even those took a while to sell out. Needless to say, the publication lost money. But Joel and I were quite happy with the reception of the issue, and published two more issues—one dedicated to Weird Tales and one to Unknown—before giving up publishing to move onto other endeavors.
Q: You have been friends with Glenn Lord for decades. How did that relationship develop?
I must admit I’m not sure when I first met Glenn, but I suspect it was through Don Grant, who I had been buying books from since the early 1960’s. In the early 1970’s Glenn worked for a company that had a WATS line (Wide Area Telephone Service—a flat fee long distance line for company use) and he would call me in the evening and we would talk for an hour or two about Howard and his work. It was pretty neat, as in those days long distance phone calls were a lot more expensive, and lengthy long-distance calls were not that common. I think the first time I met Glenn in person was in 1976 at the World SF Convention in Kansas City.
Don Grant, Robert Weinberg, and Glenn Lord
at the World SF Convention in Kansas City, 1976
Q: REHupa was created in 1972, and you were one of the very first members. What do you recall from your time in REHupa?
I joined REHupa right around the same time I got married. As I was looking for a new job, starting the book business, and still teaching mathematics in college all at the same time, while my wife was still attending college, my life was pretty hectic. I have to admit the only thing I remember about REHupa was that Glenn Lord published a fanzine with lots of fascinating Howard information. I tried to keep up my page count but I was just too busy at the time for an APA, so I didn’t remain a member very long. I was also a member of the Lovecraft APA, the Esoteric Order of Dagon, but quit that as well. I enjoyed reading what other people had to say about Howard and Lovecraft, my favorite authors, but I really didn’t have enough free time to write anything meaningful myself.
Q: Ever think of rejoining?
In the past few years as my work load has lessened, I’ve been thinking more about getting re-involved with fandom. I’ve slowly moved back into comic book fandom, one of my early interests, and have been thinking about trying to once more start writing material for APAs. Time will tell.
Q: Your professional career really took off in the 1970s. How did that come about?
After years of attending college and teaching mathematics, I was looking for something else to do with my life. Before I met Phyllis, I had already started selling books by mail. I had some experience selling rare books via the mail during my teens when I had done it for several years to earn extra money for collecting. This time, I decided to sell new books and fanzines, as so much new material was being published that it was easy for people to miss some of the more interesting stuff that went out of print quickly. After I got married, I continued to teach math in college while Phyllis handled most of the details of the business. Within a short time, it became evident that we both needed to devote all our energy to the swiftly expanded bookstore. From there, it was only a short step to get involved with publishing books and fanzines I knew we could sell to our growing customer base. Along with reprints from the pulp magazines, I also published a tribute to Weird Tales magazine in 1973, fifty years after its first issue. Later, I rewrote that tribute into a book titled The Weird Tales Story.
Within a few years, we had moved out of an apartment and bought our first house. In the meantime, my agent asked me if I’d be interested in doing some editing on the side. Needless to say, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. So I began editing paperback collections of weird and fantastic fiction. I also served as consultant for several lines of mystery novels. Business continued to expand and I was able to promote many of my favorite small press publications through my catalog. It was an exciting time with so many people publishing wonderful small press magazines like Whispers and Weirdbook and Crypt of Cthulhu and Nyctalops, and we sold all of them.
Q: What are the good and bad points of life as a professional writer and editor?
The best part of being a writer and an editor is that you don’t have to wear a jacket and tie to go to work. Even better, you don’t even have to wear shoes. I dislike shoes and rarely wear them in my home. I wear slippers all the time I’m home. The other nice thing is that once you’ve learned how to write under unusual circumstances, you can take time off when you need to for other activities. I wrote a number of novelets and short stories at a computer while taking phone orders for the book business. It requires discipline and concentration, but once you get into a groove, it’s not difficult.
The bad points are one: you rarely get rich as a writer or an editor. There’s one Stephen King in the writing field for every thousand writers. Writing is a constant struggle to earn enough money to keep from sinking. I’ve been lucky that for most of my career I’ve had my wife to run the book business while I’ve spent my time struggling to complete a book. Writing is a lot of fun, but the book business paid for our home!
Q: What are some of the other books you have written that might be of interest to Howard fans?
I think that most Howard fans would enjoy my book, The Weird Tales Story, which is a very detailed history of Weird Tales magazine, the publication that bought Robert E. Howard’s first story and published most of the fantasy stories he sold during his lifetime. The book includes articles on the fiction published in the magazine, the covers, the interiors, the contributors, even the letter column. It won the World Fantasy Award in 1978. It sold out shortly afterwards, but last year it was reprinted by Wildside Press and is available in a very attractive paperbound edition from Amazon.com or Wildside. And, needless to say, I think they’d enjoy my book The Annotated Guide to Robert E. Howard’s Sword and Sorcery, which is going to be republished by Wildside in hardcover and trade paperbound editions sometime in 2004.
Q: Speaking of The Annotated Guide to Robert E. Howard’s Sword and Sorcery, many Howard fans don’t realize that this was the very first book of Howard criticism ever. Describe your experience writing this for Starmont.
When Ted Dikty and Darrell C. Richardson started publishing FAX Collectors Editions, I handled all of their titles in my catalog. Ted lived in the Chicago area at the time and after a number of discussions, he invited me to edit a number of books for him. I did, and also agreed to write The Weird Tales Story for him. Ted then learned of my fascination with Robert E. Howard and asked if I’d be interested in writing a book of criticism about Howard as well. I agreed and I wrote the Annotated Guide in what spare time I had after finishing The Weird Tales Story. It didn’t occur to me for some time afterwards that this was the first book not only describing Howard’s work but also examining it in a critical light, as well as delving into the themes in the stories. Ted and Darrell C. Richardson had also contracted with Glenn Lord to publish four collections of Howard adventure stories in hardcover, and so my non-fiction study of Howard fit right in with the FAX line. Soon after these books were published Richardson dropped out of FAX, while Ted moved to Mercer Island, Washington, and renamed the company Starmont House to separate his earlier FAX publications from his new books.
Q: Starmont printed a fairly well-known Conan book in 1977 called A Gazetteer of the Hyborian World of Conan, written by one Lee N. Falconer, someone I’ve never heard of before or since. Can you shed any light on him?
OK, the mystery of Lee Falconer shall finally be revealed: Ted Dikty was a smart businessman and was one of the first publishers after Don Grant to realize that Robert E. Howard and Conan were extremely marketable, that books about Howard and his writing would sell quickly. The Annotated Guide sold out in only a few months, so Ted got his wife, Julian May—who had been writing very successful children’s books for a number of years—to prepare the Conan Gazetteer and Map for FAX, using "Lee Falconer" as a pseudonym. Again, both items did extremely well, and since Ted and Judy not only were the publisher but the writer of the map and book, they made all the money for the project. It was shortly after these items were published that Julian May returned to the SF field (she had been a popular writer in the 1950’s) with her Many Colored Land series which established her as one of the top SF writers of the 1980’s.
Q: Conan comics were extremely successful throughout the 1970s, bringing many more fans to Howard. What was your involvement in that medium?
I bought all the early issues of the Conan comic and wrote a few letters to the comic saying how much I enjoyed the Howard adaptations. I also appreciated Savage Tales which featured Conan in black and white. The covers by Boris Vallejo were superb. After a short while I started hearing back from Roy Thomas, who wrote the Conan stories, and that was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted to this day. With my large Howard collection and pulp knowledge I was able to supply Roy with some scarce items he didn’t own, and I even wrote a few articles for magazines like Savage Tales (back in the 1970’s) about characters like Ka-zar who had been taken from the pulps. For twenty years I was chairman of the Chicago ComiCon, which grew to be the second largest comic book convention in the USA, so I had a chance to feature people like Roy Thomas and Boris Vallejo and many of the other people involved with the Conan comics as guests at our show. While I never owned a Boris cover painting for Savage Tales, I did own a number of nice Conan interior pages, including some from “A Witch Shall Be Born.”
Q: Every longtime fan has peaks and valleys of involvement. Why did you seem to drift away from Howard fandom somewhat after the boom of the 1970s?
I didn’t drift away as much as got caught up in the wave of business. When people like Dennis McHaney and George Hamilton and Bob Price and Arnie Fenner and Wayne Warfield came along and started publishing Howard material in huge quantities, I stepped back away from fandom and devoted myself to selling their publications. I felt as a book dealer I could do more as an avenue for sales and do more good for them than writing articles. I was asked numerous times during that period to write more articles on Howard or collecting Howard, but I stayed focused on selling Howard fanzines, magazines, and books. For some small press magazines, I sold half of their entire print runs, and when necessary, paid their bill in advance, which enabled them to get the issue printed. While I was not actively involved in writing during the Howard fanzine boom, I sure helped finance it.
Q: You sometimes paid them in advance for their print runs? That’s amazing, the kind of magnanimous behind-the-scenes work that doesn’t get recognized nearly enough by modern fans. I wish I had heard that story before.
Although people generally assume that one’s motives are strictly business, I sold Howard items not only to earn a living but because I loved his work. What many fans didn’t realize was that oftentimes selling Howard books meant making less profit than selling other material. Small presses often couldn’t give the 40% discount that most bookstores require. Limited editions like Night Images, a stunning Howard poetry book, only gave booksellers a 20% discount. After shipping costs were figured in the book barely broke even for mail order booksellers, so many retailers didn’t handle it. But I felt obligated to offer every Howard item to the fan community, so I sold every Howard item I could obtain whether I made a profit from it or not. At several fan gatherings like PulpCon, small press publishers were always the first to mention how I helped keep Howard and Lovecraft small press profitable in the 1980s.
Q: People often don't realize how much time and effort it takes to assemble old pulp texts for book publication. Being one of the top Howard collectors, am I right in assuming that you've done your fair share of contributing to such causes?
Recently, I supplied copies of some obscure Weird Tales texts for the Complete Conan of Cimmeria volumes published by Wandering Star in England. As an editor with over 140 books to my credit, I’ve Xeroxed literally thousands of stories from my collection to be reprinted in book form. It’s not good for the magazines, but it made a lot of great stories available for fans who otherwise would probably never read them.
Q: Several writers over the years have credited you with helping introduce them to the fantasy field. What are they talking about?
My business specialized in handling fanzines devoted to Weird Tales, Lovecraft, Howard, and fantasy and horror in general. I also handled SF fan publications, not every one, but basically carried everything in fantasy and SF available in the U.S. and in England. I advertised my mail-order catalog in places not aimed at SF buyers but at fantasy fans. I sold lots of fantasy and Howard material at comic book conventions and was well known to most every pro in the comic book business, as most of them were fans of Howard and/or Lovecraft. In doing so, I also made fanzines available to a lot of young writers who never heard of fandom and who were anxious to get published. A number of pro writers who have become quite famous writers have sent me letters over the years saying how it was my business that introduced them to fandom and thus started their career. I won’t mention their names, but I’ve always been extremely proud of getting these people writing.
Q: As if everything we've already talked about wasn't enough, you are also currently the co-owner of Weird Tales. What's the story behind your involvement there?
In 1973, when I was working on WT50, my tribute to the 50th anniversary issue of Weird Tales, I wrote to Leo Margulies who was the current publisher of the magazine to get permission to reprint a number of items for my book. He agreed and was quite pleasant. Over the years, I was in touch a few more times with Leo and his wife Cylvia. When Leo died in the late 1970’s, Cylvia wanted to get out of publishing. Several big name fans wanted the rights from Weird Tales, but they just asked Cylvia to give them to her. At the time, another book dealer named Victor Dricks and I had just closed a publishing business we had started called SF Graphics. Our one hardcover was a reprint of the Howard poetry book, Singers in the Shadows. While we did not have huge amounts of money in our account, we offered Cylvia all of it for the Weird Tales name and remaining copyrights. We’ve owned it ever since. Anything published with the Weird Tales name and logo on it since then has been licensed by our company, Weird Tales Ltd. Once or twice we actually even lined up a TV deal, but some bad luck always negated it. However, in the 25 years we’ve owned Weird Tales, we’ve managed to license some great products, including an impressive magazine. So we think we’ve done a good job keeping the Weird Tales name alive.
Q: A lot of Howard fans don't crossover into other areas of fandom, so can you explain some of the things you've accomplished in other areas? For instance, Lovecraft fandom, pulp fandom, SF fandom, art fandom, etc.
During the late 1960’s and 1970’s, fandom by and large meant science fiction fandom. There really wasn’t genre fandoms like there are now. There were only a few fanzines that specialized in one special topic or another, like Amra on swords-and-sorcery, and ERBdom on Edgar Rice Burroughs. That changed in the 1970’s, as more and more fans focused on one particular area of the field they enjoyed. New Lovecraft fandom really started with the publication of Nyctalops; the one-shot fanzine HPL; and Whispers. Within a fairly short time, there were dozens of Lovecraft fanzines and semi-pro magazines devoted to HPL and the Cthulhu mythos. Pretty much the same thing happened to Robert E. Howard, the pulps, SF and fantasy art collecting, and many other fields. As I had pretty diverse tastes, I was involved in writing articles and fan material for just about all of these branches of fandom.
In the late 1960’s I published A Readers Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos, a fan survey of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu fiction and those who followed in his footsteps. A few years later E.P. Berglund asked for permission to revise this booklet, and from that emerged a huge checklist (by Paul) of every professional and amateur Mythos story published through 1974. It was a huge project, and Paul has continued to keep track of all Mythos stories for an update which I suspect would fill up volumes.
I also contributed many articles on Lovecraft and other weird fiction writers to all sorts of fan magazines of the period. I was extremely interested in the single character pulp magazines of the time, so I wrote a lot about Doc Savage, The Shadow, The Spider, and many other heroes of the 1930’s. In 1969 I helped put together with fellow hero pulp fanatic, Lohr McKinstry, an index to the single character pulps that we titled The McKinstry-Weinberg Hero-Pulp Index. Lohr provided many of the indexes while I did most of the typing, found a number of new characters to include, and paid to have the index published out of my own pocket. Several years later, after being made aware of a number of mistakes by collectors, I went through the entire index line by line, adding numerous characters, correcting the mistakes, and revising all of the back material. Since all the work done on the 2nd edition was mine, I re-titled the index as The Weinberg-McKinstry Hero-Pulp Index to reflect this and to let people know that the new version was not just a reprinting but a full top-down revision. It has been the standard reference guide to the hero pulps ever since. Also during the 1970’s, I started reprinting many rare pulp novels in an inexpensive format for people who couldn’t afford to buy the rare originals.
I was interested in fantasy, and when my pulp reprints proved successful, I started a series called Lost Fantasies. I reprinted rare work by people like Otis Adelbert Kline, Edmond Hamilton, Jack Williamson, and many others in that series. I also persuaded H. Warner Munn, who had retired from writing years and years before, to start writing again and finish his Tales of the Werewolf Clan, which had started in Weird Tales in 1930 but had never been completed. The completed series was later collected in book form, but no mention was made that I had commissioned the new stories and had been responsible for getting Munn to finish the series.
I collected (and still do) original Science Fiction and Fantasy art. When I saw there was no reference material in that field, I started working on a book about the history of SF Art. Mike Ashley, a friend in England, had already proposed a book on SF art to Greenwood Press, a publisher that provided reference books for libraries. Mike was too busy to work on the Greenwood Project so he instead referred them to me. After five years of research, I finished A Biographical Dictionary of SF/Fantasy Artists, which was called a “groundbreaking work” by the SF Research Association. Like The Weird Tales Story, it won a World Fantasy Award for best non-fiction book in the fantasy field for the year it was published.
I also served two years as Vice President of the Horror Writers Association and wrote a history of modern horror titled Horror of the 20th Century. So I’ve kept busy. There are two very different biographies of me in the Encyclopedia of SF and the Encyclopedia of Fantasy.
Q: Looking back, what are some of the interesting Howard publications which ultimately never got published, and why?
I must admit that, once upon a time, I felt that some interesting Howard material had yet to be published. But in the last few years, just about everything written by Howard has been published, including some stuff that I felt could have been left un-reprinted. I’m not sure there is anything by Howard that’s not been published. I do wish that more material about Howard had been printed. Despite the several excellent small press magazines on Howard and his writings, I feel that there’s a lot more in his work that begs to be discussed and analyzed.
Q: In 1990, when you were chairman of World Fantasy Con in Chicago, a full-page ad appeared for Project Pride in their convention program. Coincidence?
I was extremely pleased that we were able to run the Project Pride ad in the World Fantasy Convention Program Book. The ad was donated to PP by the convention, saving them $400. And, to help start the contributions, the convention also donated $500 to this worthwhile project, the same amount we had donated years before to the Lovecraft Headstone memorial fund.
Q: On your website you have many pictures that are of interest to Howard fans. My favorites were the ones from the dinner held for Novalyne Price Ellis. Any memories of that night?
Actually, the meal was a luncheon. That’s one of the few facts I remember about it other than meeting a lot of Howard fans I had corresponded with for years, and how exciting it was to be there. I had met E. Hoffmann Price years before. He was the only Weird Tales author who had actually met Howard, and we talked about Howard most all of one night. It was also a tremendous honor to meet Novalyne Price Ellis, perhaps the person closest to REH. I do remember talking to her for a few minutes at the dinner, but I have to admit I was so excited at the time that I have absolutely no idea what I said!
Q: It's one of the sad truisms of life that the accomplishments of previous generations become buried beneath the sands of time. Too often modern fandom seems appallingly ignorant about who came before them and how much those pioneers did for the very causes they admire. As one of the few people who was here before the beginning, what kind of message would you like to give young people just entering Howard fandom?
Fans tend to forget that years ago reading and collecting Robert E. Howard took a lot of effort. His work just about disappeared from 1939-1950 and was equally scarce in the 1960’s. It’s exciting to see wonderful volumes published by Wandering Star and to realize that the Governor of California owes some of his fame to Conan, but I think today’s fans need to remember that it was through the tireless efforts of people like Glenn Lord and Donald Grant that these things came to be.
Q: Well, Mr. Modesty, I can think of another name to add to that list. Do you think there is a tendency for new fans to rewrite history?
Of course. Everyone likes to think of history as happening the way they imagined it, not the way it really happened. I think fans don’t realize how difficult it was getting fantasy published in the USA. There was no market for fantasy in the USA in the 1950’s. The Ace Double featuring Conan the Conqueror was the worst flop they ever published. It was the main reason that Ace never published fantasy until ten years later.
Q: Anything new coming out regarding Howard that you've worked on and would like to plug?
I’ve done some work for The Legacy of Conan but really can’t comment on it other than say it will look great when published. And Wildside Press is soon going to re-release The Annotated Guide to Robert E. Howard’s Sword and Sorcery after it being out of print for more than twenty years. If other opportunities arise, I’ll be glad to pursue them. The one thing I won’t be doing is writing a Conan pastiche novel.
Q: How does being named Guest of Honor at the 2004 Robert E. Howard Days compare to your many other honors over the years?
I’ve won numerous writing awards and been a guest at many conventions over the nearly 40 years I’ve been active in the SF and fantasy community. I’ve even served as Grand Master of the tri-state Rodeo, one of the largest rodeos in the United States. But absolutely nothing compares to being the Guest of Honor at Howard Days. I have no problem stating that Robert E. Howard was my favorite author when I was a teenager, and has remained my favorite author more than forty years later. I make no excuses for my taste. Howard was one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His prose might be less polished than critics like, but I can quote line after line of his best from memory. It never fades and never ceases to inspire me. Howard invented swords-and-sorcery, and in ¾ of a century no one has written it better. So I consider Howard’s home sacred ground, and I can think of no honor in my life that makes me prouder.