Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Second Scottish Invasion of Cross Plains: Day 2

Now we get into the death-grip, the real Howard Days festivities begin!

08:45 Coffee & Donuts at the Pavillion

In one of my many foreigner moments, I set the alarm clock for 7:00 PM, as opposed to AM.  Confound it all.  In any case, I was awakened by the Weird Sisters, caught a quick shower, and got up and ready in about 20 minutes.  Then onto the Pavillion.

The heat was not intense, and I was coping alright.  The shower helped, since my long locks were still soaked in water, which helped cool my head.  Thanks, ma!  I had a banana and drink of milk for breakfast, leaving room for one of those gargantuan American donuts.  When in Rome, and all that.  During this, I got reacquainted with many of the folk from yesterday, seeing all the new arrivals.  I recall many faces from last year, but because I'm atrocious with names, I often fall into the dreaded "Oh, hello!  It's yourself!  How are you?" trap, desperately trying not to give the game away even though it would save embarassment just to admit my silliness.  At least I remembered Keith, a remembrance I'm proud of.

We got registered, and watched the walking tour depart.  It was with great delight I noticed I had a special REHupan badge with a blue border: whee!  Little things like that keep me amused.

09:00 The Howard House... Again

We went back into the Howard House for another jaunt, but this time I had cash with me. Bwahahaha. I made a point of restricting myself to only buy items I could carry home comfortably in a briefcase that were of a uniform size, so sadly, no Dreams in the Fire (this time: I'll get there, dammit!) or the many similarly sized collections.  However, I did buy two Spectrum REH specials (one including an interview with Mark), The Drawings of Robert E. Howard (something I really wanted to get), and the new centennial retrospective of Cross Plains.  All were around the same size, so they'd fit well into a case. I neglected to mention I bought the latest Two Gun Raconteur from Damon last night. Plenty of reading material for the plane home!

A sight that near rent my heart in twain was next: a box of The Cimmerian issues.  I don't make a song-and-dance about it, but back when Leo announced that he was planning on destroying the remaining copies, I immediately resolved that I would do my damnedest to make sure as many as possible weren't lost.  Thus, I bought the entire Cimmerian library.  Cost me an arm and a leg, the single biggest investment I've ever made for such a subject, and I think I'm still feeling the cost today.  So it was with a hint of vague annoyance tempered with delighted recognition that I saw these Cimmerian issues were on sale for a fraction of the original price.  I could've done with a discount like that back then.  Still, I consoled myself by thinking "hey, that just means there are more copies out there that can be read and savoured."

09:45 The Library

Next we drove along to attend the panels, and see how the Dan Goudey Memorial was coming along.  I should note that something seemed to go wrong in our car, so that instead of the air conditioner blowing cool air, it blew hot air.  So you can imagine I was somewhat uncomfortable, much as I'd imagine I'd be uncomfortable if you dropped me in a vat of boiling oil without my express consent. This would be a problem throughout the day.

Luckily, the library isn't a far drive, so I survived.  Barely.  We all arrived and said hello to Linda and the rest, caught up on everything.  I then saw how the memorial was coming along: apparently there had been setbacks, but it's at least a third finished.  It looks lovely so far, and I applaud the decision to split it into parts, in case the library has to move, or anything.

The first panel of the day was Rusty & Indy relating the history of Howard Days itself.  Very informative and fun little reminisces peppered throughout, accompanied by a slideshow with the younger Messrs Burke & Cavalier, as well as documents and stories of the time.  Ben Friberg was present to record, and I hope he puts it up on youtube so I can link it here in future.

EDIT: Here we go! As Ben uploads the parts onto Youtube, I'll update the post to show them here.

12:00 Hot dogs at the Pavillion

We drove back, and saw Paul Sammon walking with Gary Romeo back to the Pavillion.  Ever the generous Scots (we have a reputation to uphold) we offered to give them a lift, and so Paul & Gary were squished into a car containing four displaced Scots.  As Gran said, "Aberdonian transport." We had hot dogs at the Pavillion, and I mostly chatted with Miguel about all manner of subjects, though again, I talked with a bunch of others.

13:00 Dennis & Damon

Dennis McHaney and Damon Sasser, being the guests of honour, had their own panel, where they discussed Howard 'zines.  I can't do it justice: too much information to relay.  Again, I hope Ben pulls through.

14:15 Amy & Barbara

I was really anxious to see this panel due to my vested interest in Howard's women (both characters and fans), and I offered to help out in any way.  They didn't need it: they discussed the Cimbri woman of "Echoes from an Iron Harp," Dark Agnes, Olivia, Valeria, Red Sonya and a variety of others.  I chimed in with Helen Tavrel in the Q&A - I think she's very underrated as a very complex, vulnerable, sword woman - and there was lots of comment from the audience.  Occassionally Barbara nodded in my direction when they forgot a story's name ("I'm helping!"), and you might hear that Scottish brogue in a video near you.

We then drove to the High School, and the air conditioning situation showed no signs of abating.  Worse, it was at the hottest part of the day.  It got to the point where I actually felt cooler outside in the 98 degree sun than in the car.  I don't think that's how air conditioning works.

15:30 High School and Conan

Now, this is going to be short, as I'm going to be working on a full report of what I saw of the new Conan film for Conan Movie Blog.  However, as we walked in, we encountered Matthew, an acquaintance from the previous Howard Days which the Weird Sisters were very fond of, and I was very happy to see him return too.  It really started to feel less like being in a foreign country, and more like visiting the family for the weekend.

I also got to play around with some of the film props: the sword of Corin, Conan's sword, Marique's Stygian Claws, a broken Mask of Acheron (how in blazes do you break a foam mask? UST found a way), Conan's necklace, and - get this - a spyglass.  That's right, a Hyborian spyglass. I'm not quite sure what to make of it: it seems somewhat feasible, but I'm not up to speed on optics technology.  Anyway.  Since the Weird Sisters had departed to get ready for the banquet, I got a lift from Barbara, where I talked with Miguel.  He isn't convinced about the film, and he continues to disagree with me on Solomon Kane.  Such is the nature of Howardom, and I love it.

18:00 To the Community Centre

After a good while lying down and resting, I got ready for the banquet. As per last year, I donned my linen suit (seen in the penultimate post on The Cimmerian blog), with the addition of my sweet new cowboy hat.  Another drive, and by this time I was ready to leap out of the moving car - though this particular make, a Buick of some form, had a mechanism which prevented the doors from opening when the car's moving. Blast.

We sat down to dinner after looking at the silent auction items, seated at a table along with to Matthew, Ben Friberg, Mark Finn & his wife Cathy, Ed Chaczyk, Paul Herman, Fredrik Malmberg and Joakim Zetterburg.  There were a number of presentations: a lovely wee girl recited her essay for the Robert E. Howard Foundation Scholarship, Dennis & Damon spoke for a bit on their 'zines and 'Zine history in general, Arlene Stephenson laid down the law in terms of table manners and food gathering procedure.

We had Texas food: tacos with a variety of sauces.  Knowing the power of Mexican cuisine, I choose a fairly dull stir-fried chicken with rice and a great dollop of avocado sauce.  I have the Scots of Arizona to thank for turning me onto that delicious new taste.  Refried beans is awfully Texan too. After eating, the final five minutes of the silent auction were announced, and to my (in retrospect, redundant) disappointment, nearly everything I had my eye on was already hiking up in price.  Usually it was Paul Sammon.  On the other hand, I simply didn't have the space in my suitcase, so ultimately it's for the best.  I just don't know when I'm going to see those Wandering Stars again...

Then the Awards.  I was up for an award, but seeing as there were eighteen other entries, I wasn't expecting anything.  Same as last year: nice to be nominated, but I'm hardly there yet.  So the winners are announced and then the Cimmerians for Outstanding Achievement in Blog Posts comes along.  Third place goes to Barbara Barrett, and given that she's the most prolific of us - spread out across four blogs - damn right.  Second place was Al Harron for The Cimmerian and The Blog That Time Forgot.  Alright, that's pretty neat, Al was nominated last year for the Venarium but didn't get it, so...

Wait, I'm Al Harron!  I won an award!

(Miguel has an awesome picture of my expression upon winning, which was entirely gratuitous and over the top, but I genuinely didn't think I'd win anything this year.  This picture will go here)

At the time, I was floating above the clouds: to think, I got one of those little plaques that shows the heavy hitters of Howardom are thinking "hey, great job, dude, have a little plaque that shows the heavy hitters of Howardom are thinking "hey, great job, dude..."" And I honestly didn't think I'd have a chance against the likes of Keith or Damon's spectacular work.  But here I am, with the little plaque.  It's something, I tell you.  I'm having little ideas about putting a "Winner of an REH Foundation Award" picture in the top right corner like how TC had the World Fantasy Award, but that might be silly.

Anyway, I was pretty much flabberghasted by this.  The road back to the Pavillion was light and airy on account of me perambulating several inches above the ground, and we went to the poetry reading.

I'll expand this post when I have time, but I really must get some sleep.  Clutching my award.


  1. Good for you Al. Can't wait to see your photo. This is a lot of fun for us. I feel part of things in Texas. Thank you for taking time to include us all.

  2. Way to go, Bro! And you go ahead and put that Cimmerian Award up there--you earned it, after all (and besides it would be a nice flashback to The Cimmerian Blog, yah?)

    Be sure to load these posts down with photos as well, since nobody ever seems to post pics from the event (last year was pretty sparse on both pics and posts about the shindig.)

    (and pics of you and the Weird Sisters would be nice as well--be good the see the Scottish Invaders, after all)

  3. good for you Al! you put alt of hard work into this and it paid off! hope you are having a good time!-mario

  4. Congratulations Al, you deserve it.

  5. Congrats, Al!

    While your detailed description of the days are evocative, and makes me want to be there, I think it would be a good idea to - when you're home - put photographs in the text, so we can also enjoy some of the sights, see the people you hang out with, whatnot!...


  6. Most richly deserved!

    Jim Cornelius

  7. Thanks, everyone!

    Remco, I'm definitely going to be putting photographs in after I get home: don't worry about that.