I’m getting the distinct impression that good old Al Harron, over in the World of Robert E. Howard Studies, isn’t the fastest blade out of the scabbard. Back on February 11 I addressed some concerns he had raised about where I stood in the Howardian action, and I see that on October 17 he suddenly discovered that he had been answered.
If this had been a debate, people would have died of boredom in the interval.
Just as well this isn't a debate! Then again, if I wasn't the fastest tortoise out of the scrub (hey, I can make my own metaphors), then Conan Movie Blog would be in a bit of a sorry state, only now bringing us the news of Jason Momoa's casting and shooting beginning in Bulgaria. But then, that isn't really Robert E. Howard studies related.
But in answer to a couple of Al’s “points” — the idea that we couldn’t possibly be related in any way because our last names are spelled Herron vs. Harron indicates someone who isn’t familiar with names or how inconsistent they have been historically. While I don’t have the time or interest to explore the issue today, within my own family my father was one of eight siblings — half of those brothers and sisters spelled the last name “Herron” and the rest spelled it “Herren,” and I met some cousins once who spelled it “Herrin.” I have some Scots roots (Al is over in Scotland), so don’t regard his statement as in any way definitive.
Evidently my light-hearted quotation from The Simpsons went over like a lead balloon, and was taken to be an definitive statement on my belief on genealogy. That's what I get for not sourcing my attempted cartoon references.
Al’s only 27 years of age at this point, so he hasn’t been around the block much as yet (though by that age I had written “Conan vs. Conantics” already and duked it out with L. Sprague de Camp in the letter column of Two-Gun Raconteur, so I probably expect more out of potential Howard critics than most people).
My block perambulation deficiencies are more pronounced considering I hadn't begun studying Howard seriously until around 2007, having only discovered REH in earnest in the late 2000s after an adolescence dominated by science fiction. So if I haven't created a defining piece like Conan vs Conantics, well, I can happily say it's because I'm not Don Herron, and I dare say few people ever will be Don Herron. I can only assume that what I have written on The Cimmerian and here has left Mr Herron wanting in terms of Howard criticism. Ah well, not much I can do about that except try harder. That said, it's kind of hard for me to duke it out with de Camp on account of him currently being indisposed, and there isn't really a comparable figure with whom to duke in current Howardom. Leaves me in a bit of a spot.
Then there’s the idea that Al doesn’t get that I get it. It might be the American vernacular throwing him, but who in Western Civilization doesn’t understand the concept of What Have You Done For Me Lately???
I guess we can put Al on that list. . . .
Oh dear, another failure of communication on my part. What I was trying to say, in my roundabout way, was that I couldn't understand how Don could interpret my bemoaning his absence as a criticism, that I felt some sense of betrayal or defection from the Shieldwall, when in fact I felt nothing of the sort. Thus, my lack of understanding of "What Have You Done For Me Lately???" isn't in reference to the phrase itself, but the application. I get that he gets it, I just don't get how he got it from this instance.
And somewhere in those long months I do recall Al taking the side of Professor Frank Coffman in a little dust-up I had with him — my only advice, Al, is that no one who really knows Howard Studies would ever side with Frank over me about anything. Honest.
I can't really talk about the background of the kerfuffle, but suffice to say, I place more stock in making up my own mind and being proven wrong, than taking someone's word for it and being right by proxy. That said, I've disagreed with Frank and I've disagreed with Don on various myriad details and sticking points, and I'm likely to continue to do so. I don't particularly want to be on anyone's side: if there's anything reading the Lion's Den has taught me, it's that I'm not interested in making enemies among Howardom, when Howard studies has enough to contend with - far less than in previous decades, for sure, but no reason to be complacent.
Nonetheless, I do have rapturous news, for Don actually compliments me on a post I made! Me! Al Harron! Oh fraptious day, calloo, callay!
But I must compliment Al on another recent post he did — very funny, and spot on — concerning the upcoming book of essays Conan Meets the Academy, where the initial blurb says flat-out that it is the first scholarly investigation of Conan. The only way you could suggest that it is “first” would be if you consider the idea that the essays are written by academics (including Professor Frank) and that only professors can do litcrit (some people apparently believe that — the poor saps, the poor deluded saps). To me, it just looks as if the profs are cribbing the pattern that L. Sprague de Camp used in books such as The Conan Reader, The Blade of Conan, and The Sword of Conan — sorry, academics, but it’s been done, decades ago.
Seriously, I'm thrilled to bits. It might be hard for Don to understand, but being a young Howard fan, I still hold his generation of Howard scholars to a somewhat mythical pedestal. Going to Cross Plains and meeting individuals like Rusty Burke, Mark Finn, Damon Sasser, Dennis McHaney, Bill Cavalier, Rob Roehm, Frank Coffman and more felt - if you'll indulge in a bit of hyperbole - a bit like I was Jason appearing on the playing board of the Olympians in Jason and the Argonauts. All I could do was look up in wide-eyed wonder at these people that seemed so tall and huge to me - literally in Rusty Burke's case - and I felt like, "what am I doing here?"
Since that first Scottish invasion of Cross Plains, the veil of mystery and awe surrounding those scholars has dissipated, but like the wizard beyond the Great and Powerful Oz, the humans behind the gods are no less intelligent and wise: I felt less like a lowly mortal, and more like an aspiring champion. But Don's taking me to task reminds me not to rest on my laurels: I still have a long way to go.