I confidently predict that certain people in the wacky world of Robert E Howard fandom will have a fit when they read Richard Lupoff's introduction.
- Jojo Lapin X
I have no doubt about that whatsoever, and by this time one would think they could just let the matter rest. There is a point at which these continual leaps to Howard's defense cease doing Howard any good and merely suggest to the world that this is an author who must always be treated with kid gloves, a notion Howard himself would most likely have found ridiculous.
You should've seen the original version!
- Scott Connors
From The Eldritch Dark Forums. The Eldritch Dark is a fantastic resource for Clark Ashton Smith stories, poems, biographies, criticisms and links, and I heartily recommend it. You can even brave the Forums if you like: they're at least as protective of Smith as Howard fans are of their favourite author.
This seems to come up a lot recently, and it's starting to irritate me more than a shrimp. In recent weeks, I've been taking people to task for inaccuracies in relation to Howard, but I also notice that certain quarters are critical of this. For those who think I'm accentuating the negative, or just becoming tiresomely repetitive, I apologise, though I think I'd been positive enough in recent weeks. However, every time there's a controversy in regards to Howard, there's always someone who thinks Howard fans are taking things "a little too far," or that we're actually hurting Howard in our attempts to defend him, or his work.
Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man.
This isn't about treating Howard as some sort of divine, infallible, untouchable God of Literature, or that he's some sort of poor little guy who has to be protected from the Big Bad Critics. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's not really about Howard at all - it's about truth. It's about something being said that is not so, and challenging it. When someone brings up the old Oedipal, Fattish, Closet-Homosexual, Paranoid, Psychopathic, Delusional, Maladjusted-to-the-point-of-Psychosis Howard, it isn't just an attack on Howard, it's an attack on truth. It's allowing misconception, myth, and outright invention to override real investigation and history. It's no better than perpetuating the old nonsense that Nero fiddled while Rome burned, or that Columbus' voyage was embarked upon to prove the world was round to an incredulous flat-earth population of Europe. Saying Howard boarded up his windows at night while praying for dawn isn't just painting Howard as a delusional nutcase - it's making a mockery of history and biography. It's allowing supposition, rumour, scuttlebutt and fiction to take the place of investigative research.
That's why it ticks me off. I'm fine with people not liking Howard. I'm disappointed, but fiction is subjective, and there's no author in history whom everyone universally adores. But I'm not going to lambast someone just because they prefer Fafhrd to Conan, or Jirel to Dark Agnes, or even if they plain old don't like Howard. They're allowed to have an opinion. They're not, however, allowed to make stuff up, or to rely on debunked, out-of-date "facts."
What is so hard about this to understand? It isn't all or nothing. You can allow certain types of criticism without having to put up with other types. There is middle ground between defending an author against unfair, biased, and inaccurate criticism, and squealing histrionically the moment someone says your favourite author sucks, or daring to say that another author is better. If Lupoff just says Smith was a better wordsmith than Howard, or that his stories were more imaginative, or that his style was superior - I'm not to going to argue. I might even agree! I love Clark Ashton Smith's work. "The Empire of the Necromancers" is one of my ten Desert Island Short Stories. Heck, even if he outright says he doesn't like Howard, I'll just shrug and think "eh, his loss." However, if Lupoff brings up The Old Myths, or plain Makes Stuff Up, then I'm going to argue. Not just for Howard's sake - for truth's sake. For people to think Howard fans are being unreasonable for the unspeakable crime of wanting people to get facts straight is anathema to me. I'd argue against this as strongly as I'd argue against anyone who says Tolkien was racist.
All I can say is, if a new Robert E. Howard volume comes out, and the introduction accuses Clark Ashton Smith of being a paranoid, agorophobic, demon-worshipping, bisexual ephebophile - or come up with any old nonsense that's easily disproven by a modicum of research - then the fine chaps over at the Eldritch Dark had better haud their wheesht.
After all, we can't treat an author with kid gloves, can we?