1. a cause of anguish or pain; acute suffering
[origin: ca. 14th century; Middle English, probably from Middle Dutch rec framework; akin to Old English reccan to stretch, Greek oregein]
From the scarlet shadows they come to me,
Shades of the dust-dead past,
Like drifting fogs of the restless sea
From the silent Nameless Vast.
Ghostly and grey in the dying day
Their spectral ranks are massed.
With their lank, dank hair, and their eery stare,
Phantom and fiend and ghost—
Skeletons limned in a haunted sky,
Footfalls light where the dim bats fly,
Stealthy shadows—yet none but I
Am ’ware of the weird host.
Their light tread whispers on every hand
When I walk through the shadows’ rack
And I hear the mumble of fleshless jaws
In the dark behind my back.
[from “A Pirate Remembers”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 230 and Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 417]
1. an insubstantial form or semblance; a barely visible gaseous or vaporous column
[origin: unknown; first known usage 1514]
Far in the gloomy Northland,
Where the roaring north wind blows,
Driving the dim, pale fog wraiths
Over the drifting snows,
When the sleet drives fast and furious,
And the winter north wind roars,
And the ocean, dark and sullen,
Beats on the northern shores.
A haggard land and a barren,
Naught to charm or allure,
A white-crested, desolate ocean,
A gloomy, desolate moor.
Gloomy, desolate, barren,
Feared and shunned by men,
For a phantom roams the moor,
A spectre haunts the fen.
[from “Far in the Gloomy Northland”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 236; Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 307 and A Rhyme of Salem Town, p. 121]
1. “Mice with eyes of red ice” (see poem below) are albinos. The redness is due to the lack of the natural dark pigments of the iris. Instead what is seen is the color from their blood vessels. Referred to as tapetum lucidum, it is a reflecting structure that contains crystals. It is especially developed in many nocturnal animals, rodents, birds and it helps their eyes to catch all the available light. The redness is not in the iris (the outer part that gives eyes their color) but at the back of the eye, behind the retina.
When light shines directly into eyes that have a tapetum lucidum, it produces “eyeshine” (it appears to glow). Many fish have white eyeshine, some mammals have yellow or blue eyeshine, and others such as rodents have red eyeshine. Tapetum lucidum is an adaptation to life in environments with little light.
[origin: tapetum lucidem: Latin for “bright tapestry”]
A granite wind sighed from the crimson clay desert.
A witch laid her shoon
On the horn of the moon;
The stars in the east
Were the robes of a priest,
And a granite wind roared from the crimson clay desert.
A king on a sapphire hill brooded forever.
A queen glimmered cold
In opal and gold;
Kissing white mice
With eyes of red ice,
And a king on a sapphire hill brooded forever.
[from “A Far Country”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 281; Robert E. Howard Selected Poems, p. 151; and Shadows of Dreams, p. 73]
Call for Proposals
CALL FOR PROPOSALS
Pulp Studies Area
Popular Culture/American Culture Association National Conference
March 27-30 2013
Pulp magazines were a series of mostly English-language, predominantly American, magazines printed on rough pulp paper. They were often illustrated with highly stylized, full-page cover art and numerous line art illustrations of the fictional content. They were sold for modest sums, and were targeted at (sometimes specialized) readerships of popular literature, such as western and adventure, detective, fantastic (including the evolving genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror), romance and sports fiction. The first pulp Argosy, began life as the children’s magazine The Golden Argosy, dated Dec 2, 1882 and the last of the “original” pulps was Ranch Romances and Adventures, Nov. 1971.
The Pulp Studies area exists to support the academic study of pulp writers, editors, readers, and culture. It seeks to invigorate research by bringing together scholars from diverse areas including romance, western, science fiction, fantasy, horror, adventure, detective, and more. Finally, the Pulp Studies area seeks to promote the preservation of the pulps through communication with libraries, museums, and collectors.
With this in mind, we are calling for papers and panels that discuss the pulps and their legacy. Suggested authors and topics:
• Magazines: Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, Wonder Stories, Fight Stories, All-Story, Argosy, Thrilling Wonder Stories, Spicy Detective, Ranch Romances and Adventures, Oriental Stories/Magic Carpet Magazine, Love Story, Flying Aces, Black Mask, and Unknown, to name a few.
• Editors and Owners: Street and Smith (Argosy), Farnsworth Wright (Weird Tales), Hugo Gernsback (Amazing Stories), Mencken and Nathan (Black Mask), John Campbell (Astounding).
• Influential Writers: H.P. Lovecraft, A. E. Merritt, Robert E. Howard, C. L. Moore, Fritz Leiber, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Donald Wandrei, Clark Ashton Smith, and Henry Kuttner. Proposals about contemporary writers in the pulp tradition, such as Joe Lansdale and Michael Chabon are also encouraged. New Weird writers and others, such as China Mieville, whose work is influenced by the pulps, are also of interest.
• Influences on Pulp Writers: Robert Bloch, H. Rider Haggard, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jack London, and Edgar Rice Burroughs were all influences, along with literary and philosophical figures such as Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Friedrich Nietzsche, Edgar Allen Poe, and Herbert Spencer.
• Popular Characters: Conan of Cimmeria; Doc Savage; Solomon Kane; Buck Rogers; Northwest Smith; The Domino Lady; Jiril of Jiory; Zorro; Kull of Atlantis; El Borak; The Shadow; The Spider; Bran Mak Morn; Nick Carter; The Avenger; and Captain Future, among others. Also character types: the femme fatale, the he-man, the trickster, racism and villainy (such as Charles Middleton’s Ming the Merciless), and more.
• Artists: Popular cover artists including Margaret Brundage (Weird Tales), Frank R. Paul (Amazing Stories), Virgil Finlay (Weird Tales), and Edd Cartier (The Shadow, Astounding).
• Periods: The dime novels; Argosy and the ancestral pulps; Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, and the heyday of the pulps; the decline of the pulps in the 50s and 60s; pulps in the age of the Internet.
• Theme and Styles: Masculinity, femininity, and sex as related to the heroic in the pulps; the savage as hero, the woman as hero, the trickster as hero, etc.
• Film, Television and Graphic Arts: Pulps in film, television, comics, graphic novels and other forms are especially encouraged. Possible topics could include film interpretations such as Conan the Barbarian, comic book incarnations of pulp magazines and series; “new weird” reinventions of the pulps such as the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and The Watchmen; fan films; and newer productions, including the recently released Solomon Kane and Conan.
• Cyberculture: Cyberpulps such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies and pulp-influenced games such as the Age of Conan MMORPG or the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game.
These are but suggestions for potential panels and presentations. Proposals on other topics are welcome.
For general information on the Pulp Studies area, please visit our website:
Final Submission Deadline: November 30, 2012
• When submitting your paper, abstract, proposal, or panel please include your name, affiliation, and email address. For those submitting a panel, include the name, affiliation, and email address for each participant and note who will be the principle contact and panel chair.
• Abstracts should be approximately 250 words in length.
• Indicate if presentation media is required. Projectors will be present in most locations, but presenters must supply their own computers.
• A preliminary version of the schedule will usually be posted on our website in January. Due to the number of panels and participants, we are unable to accommodate individual scheduling requests. We encourage participants to come for the entire conference. The final version of the schedule will be distributed in hard copy at the conference with addendums if needed. For privacy reasons we do not publish email addresses in the online version of the program.
• Only one paper is accepted from the same presenting author. All presenters, including invited panel speakers and session chairs, must register and pay the conference registration fee. If you need an early confirmation for visa or budgetary reasons, please indicate this in your submission.
How to Submit Proposals: Submit proposals by November through the following website: http://ncp.pcaaca.org/
Note: Only papers submitted through the website will appear in the conference program. If you have any questions, please contact the Pulp Studies area coordinator:
University of the Sciences
1. None of the standard dictionary definitions relating to trigonometry were applicable. The best definition comes from Howard Scholar Jeff Shanks:
The Latin “sine” (pronounced SEE-nay) or “without” was the first thing that came to mind. That would be “without” as in “lacking,” not “without” as in “outside” so it doesn’t really make sense. Also, one syllable seems to fit the meter better than two. Another possibility is that it’s a variation of “syne” which is a Scot’s word for “since” (or “since then” according to Merriam-Webster online.)
[origin: Scottish; Middle English (northern), probably contraction of Old English siththan since]
Tum, tum, slam the drum!
I’m a migratory bum!
Sine I look between the bars,
Sine I wander midst the stars.
I’m the bum that roams the earth,
Godlings laughed upon my birth!
Slam slam! Hot damn!
I may be wrong but I’m what I am.
My feet are fast with a world-old rhyme,
I prance my ways to the edge of time.
Beggers and poets, all my friends
The world’s all mine if it gives or lends.
I’m Gypsy blood!
Head in the clouds and feet in the mud!
I’m a giddy bum with a giddy head,
The Universe has known my tread.
[from “My Sentiments Set to Jazz”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 382]
The battlefield stretched silent, crimson pools among the still sprawling figures seeming to reflect the lurid red-streamered sunset sky. Furtive figures slunk from the tall grass; birds of prey dropped down on mangled heaps with a rustle of dusky wings. Like harbingers of Fate a wavering line of herons flapped slowly away toward the reed-grown banks of the river. No rumble of chariot wheel or peal of trumpet disturbed the unseeing stillness. The silence of death followed the thundering of battle.
— The Yaralet Fragment (aka “The Hand of Nergal”)
The long battle to bring Conan back to the big screen is finally over and the dust is beginning to settle. The stakes were huge. A financial success would take the Conan franchise to the next level, cementing the Cimmerian warrior in the popular culture pantheon. Other Howard properties are waiting in the wings for their chance at immortality: Kull of Atlantis, Dark Agnes, Bran Mak Morn, Vultures of Wahpeton. But as the fog of war begins to lift we find the field littered with the corpses of REH fans’ hopes and expectations.
Early reviews were not good at all going into last Friday’s North American opening. Word was quickly making its way through the blogosphere that the film was a stinker. Friday morning, Conan’s fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes was abysmal—hovering in the mid-20’s. That pretty much doomed it right there. Many people that might have been thinking about seeing it, decided to pass. As the box office numbers began to come in over the weekend it quickly became clear that the film was in serious trouble. With production costs in the $70-80 million dollar range (not including marketing costs) Conan needed to gross around $20-25 million domestically for its opening weekend. Right now it’s projected to gross right at $10 million. That is a massive bomb.
1. a waxy substance consisting mainly of cholesterol secreted by the intestinal tract of the sperm whale and often found floating in the sea; used in the manufacture of perfumes
[origin: Middle English, from Old French ambre gris, “gray amber”]
“Lady, hell!” bleated Harrigan. “Do you know what she just did? Threw away my chart! The only dash-blank chart in the world that could show me how to find the island of Aragoa!”
“Was we goin’ there, cap’n?” asked the bos’n.
“Yes, we was!” yelled Harrigan. “And what for? I’ll tell you! Ambergris. A barrel full! At thirty-two dollars an ounce! You bilge-rats been grousin’ to know where we were sailin’ to–all right, I’ll tell you! And then I’m goin’ to tie that wench up and skin her stern with a rope’s end!
“A few months ago a blackbirder bound for Australia went on a reef in a storm, off a desert island, and nobody but the mate got ashore alive. They’d found a mess of the stuff floatin’ on the water, and filled a big barrel with it–and it floated ashore with him. The mate stood the solitude of the island as long as he could, and then took to sea in the ship’s boat he’d patched up. He’d salvaged a chart and marked the island’s position. He’d been weeks at sea when I picked him up, on my last voyage from Honolulu to Brisbane. He was ravin’ and let slip about the ambergris–I mean he was that grateful to me for savin’ him he told me all about it, and gimme the chart for safekeepin’, and right after that he got delirious and fell overboard and drowned–“
[From “The Girl on the Hell Ship,” originally published as “She Devil” in Spicy Adventure April 1936. The complete story can be found in the forthcoming volume Spicy Adventures, which can now be pre-ordered from the REH Foundation.]
Over at Two-Gun Raconteur, Brian Leno reminds us that today is the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of Clark Ashton Smith, and he has a brief but informative interview with Donald Sidney-Fryer. Meanwhile, on the REHupa email list, Dennis McHaney has been giving us some grief about how moribund our blog has been lately, so let’s at least take a few moments to honor CAS, one of the “Three Musketeers” of Weird Tales, a friend and correspondent of REH.
Smith’s poetry had been appearing in magazines since 1910, but it’s likely that Howard’s first exposure to his work would have been in Weird Tales, which published the first of his poems in 1923. Not long after beginning his correspondence with H.P. Lovecraft, Howard said that Frank Belknap Long and Smith were “writers and poets whose work I very much admire, having carefully preserved all of their poems…that have appeared in Weird Tales since I first made my acquaintance with the magazine.”
Smith did not begin writing fiction until about 1928, but he wrote prolifically between 1930 and 1935, before tapering off. His work is the most stylistically lush of the “Three Musketeers,” certainly, richly imaginative and sporting such a bejeweled vocabulary that it’s best to keep an unabridged dictionary handy. (Don’t let the vocab thing keep you from trying him though — really, it’s dazzling but relatively painless.)
Howard and Smith began corresponding in 1933 — why they did not do so earlier is one of the many unexplained mysteries of Howard’s life. As far as I know, Smith’s letters to Howard did not survive — possibly they were destroyed in the same trash fire that consumed the letters from Lovecraft to REH. (Dr. Howard was cleaning house in preparation for selling it and moving to Ranger. Many loose papers were gathered up, by either Dr. Howard or someone helping him, and burned, presumably including many of the letters from REH’s correspondents. The letters from Lovecraft survived only in transcriptions, some truncated, made by Arkham House before this incident.) We can be glad that at least some of Howard’s letters to Smith were preserved, though, because they reveal more of his “mystical” side than he could reveal in his more voluminous correspondence with Lovecraft. HPL was a thorough-going materialist and rationalist, and pooh-poohed any ventures by REH into the realm of the uncanny or seemingly supernatural. Smith, though, apparently welcomed such speculations, as can be inferred from this 1934 remark by Howard:
“I read with very great interest your comments on the forces that play upon the earth. It may well be that human life is affected vastly more than we guess by electrons or emanations from the outside. After all, we know so little about the universe, even the wisest of us. I’ve often wondered if, in the legends and myths of the ancients that have come down to us through the ages, there does not exist a foundation of truth, twisted and distorted beyond recognition.”
In an earlier letter is one of my favorite of Howard’s “mystical” remarks, again sparked by something Smith had said:
“I agree with you that little is actually known about the sources of human motivation. I’ve wondered if, in a thousand years or [so], people wouldn’t regard present day psychologists as we regard the alchemists of the middle ages; some phases of their work, anyway. It certainly does seem that certain individuals occasionally get in contact with forces outside themselves; something like cogwheels grinding away in their spirits, that suddenly, perhaps only momentarily, slip into the notches of gigantic, unseen cogwheels of cosmic scope. Maybe that’s what is meant by getting ‘in tune with the infinite.’ Sometimes it seems to me that the interlocking of unseen cogwheels lifts a man on to heights he would never have attained by his own efforts. This would explain the fact that a mediocre man sometimes attains great success and fame; explain also the unexpected and unexplainable catastrophes that often startle mankind in the fall of a great one. Say some cosmic law causes these cogwheels (I can think of no better name for it) to work together for a space, the wheels within perfectly matching the wheels without. Some man happens to [be] placed in a position where he is lifted by the turning of the wheels. Apparently by his own efforts, but really blindly, he mounts to dizzy heights; he is acclaimed and praised, dazzled by his own glory. Then the same cosmic law that locked the wheels, unlocks them, leaving him in the gap. Dazed, stunned and helpless he comes down crashing in the ruins of his glory, and neither he nor anyone else ever understands why this man who seemed so invincible the day before, seemed so unable ultimately to avert the final disaster. This is mere supposition, of course, and not even any attempt to put forward a theory. But I have seen, and have read of, so many mediocre men in high positions, and wondered how they ever got there; and there are so many cases where men who had reputations for greatness finally made the most stupid blunders, and acted in a manner so inconsistent with their former actions well, it just set me meditating.”
And of course, it is to Howard’s letters to Smith that we are indebted for insights into the creation of the Conan series, such as:
“While I don’t go so far as to believe that stories are inspired by actually existent spirits or powers (though I am rather opposed to flatly denying anything) I have sometimes wondered if it were possible that unrecognized forces of the past or present or even the future work through the thoughts and actions of living men. This occurred to me when I was writing the first stories of the Conan series especially. I know that for months I had been absolutely barren of ideas, completely unable to work up anything sellable. Then the man Conan seemed suddenly to grow up in my mind without much labor on my part and immediately a stream of stories flowed off my pen or rather, off my typewriter almost without effort on my part. I did not seem to be creating, but rather relating events that had occurred. Episode crowded on episode so fast that I could scarcely keep up with them. For weeks I did nothing but write of the adventures of Conan. The character took complete possession of my mind and crowded out everything else in the way of storywriting. When I deliberately tried to write something else, I couldn’t do it. I do not attempt to explain this by esoteric or occult means, but the facts remain. I still write of Conan more powerfully and with more understanding than any of my other characters. But the time will probably come when I will suddenly find myself unable to write convincingly of him at all. That has happened in the past with nearly all my rather numerous characters; suddenly I would find myself out of contact with the conception, as if the man hiniself had been standing at my shoulder directing my efforts, and had suddenly turned and gone away, leaving me to search for another character.”
To celebrate Smith, why not hop over to The Eldritch Dark and read one of his stories. Maybe “The Return of the Sorcerer,” since it was apparently one that made a real impact on Howard. He said in a letter to Lovecraft, “That he is capable of writing straight horror-stuff is evident by such tales as ‘The Return of the Sorcerer’ in Strange Tales, which was, as I wrote the editor, one of the most intolerably hideous stories I ever read – in other words, a sheer masterpiece.” And then later he wrote to Smith himself, “I envy you your knack of making the fantastic seem real. I particularly remember your remarkable ‘Return of the Sorcerer’ in Strange Tales. That was no story for one with weak nerves. The horror you evoked was almost unbearable. I have read and written weird stuff for more years than I like to remember, and it takes a regular literary earthquake to touch my callous soul. But it is the honest truth that my hair stood up when I read that story. Poe never wrote anything that congealed my blood like that did. I wrote the editor to that effect.”
[A little warning to those who, like me, have trouble turning off their internal copy-editor when reading: the stories posted at The Eldritch Dark could stand a good going-over by a proofreader. Most of them are not (in my experience) so bad as to put me off reading the stories, but really, some Smith fans could do a real service by cleaning up those texts.]
There are far too many Smith stories for me to go about recommending them here: check out the Bookshelf entry on Smith to find more REH comments. The Smith story that gave me the worst case of the creeps was “Mother of Toads” — not for the weak of constitution. While you’re over there, don’t fail to check out his poetry, either.
Like REH, Clark Ashton Smith was truly one for the ages!