Saturday 31 July 2010

Fantasy Masterworks - How Many Have You Read?

I came across this the other day, and was quite intrigued by the idea.

We're still hard at work on the SF and Fantasy Materworks Reading Project and still showing how we stack up in the scheme of things. We did this with the Sci-Fi list of Masterworks first and not it is time to turn to the Fantasy set, which I was hoping to have done better at. What I've bolded are books read and italics means I own it, but it has been gathering dust. Hopefully in a year's time this list will look a lot more bolded.

I've done a bit better than Mad Hatter (though Jared has me beat), but hey, maybe the meme'll catch on.

Friday 30 July 2010

More on Agnes the Barbarian

Lookie here!  As an update on the last Agnes post, which was graced with the presence of Jaime Lee Currier, the actress portraying the Heir of Conan herself, an anonymous tipster pointed out a post on SFChronicle.

Thursday 29 July 2010

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Ten-a-Penny Sword-and-Sorcery... Apparently.


Finally, after such a glut of auteur cinema, let’s wallow in some trash with Solomon Kane (Entertainment In Video) a throwback to the sword and sorcery epics that were popular during the 80s (indeed the film is based on a character created by Robert E Howard, best known for bringing Conan The Barbarian to the printed page). James Purefoy is all hard-nosed and gravelly as the titular character,  a formerly murderous sea captain now looking for redemption. But when the Devil comes for his soul, a battle ensues that will see Kane attempt to save the world. It’s gloriously silly and whilst films like this are ten-a-penny nowadays there’s a certain pulpy nostalgia that makes it throwaway fun.

Said auteur cinema included the likes of Todd Solondz, Pia Marais, Eric Rohmer and Glauber Rocha.  The Solondz films I've seen are belligerent, childish nonsense and Rohmer's a pale shadow of Godard and Truffout (who I'm not really a fan of myself).  I have no idea who the other two are, so it would be boorish of me to assume they're pretentious, self-indulgent exercises in cinematic onanism... so I won't.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Feminism and the Women in Robert E. Howard's Fictional Worlds

A while back, I talked about Howard's feminism - or more specifically, a particular letter Howard wrote to Harold Preece.  This was inspired by Barbara Barrett & Amy Kerr's work on an ACA/PCA conference paper.  Now, the two Howardian Shield-Maidens have returned to those waters on REH: Two-Gun Raconteur, with an expanded version of their fantastic and well-received ACA/PCA conference paper, to be posted in multiple parts.

While the women in Howard’s real world had the vote and could own property, the attitude that women were inferior to men still prevailed throughout most of the world during his lifetime. Robert E. Howard’s fictional world was an exception.  In it he created women who fought bravely, skillfully and fearlessly beside men as well as against them.  In fact, each of Howard’s strong women lived the life she chose for herself and when necessary, she fought to maintain that way of living.  Long before the feminist definition of empowerment, Howard’s heroines, took control over the decisions and issues that shaped their lives.

One of the unavoidable conundrums of feminism in a male author is, while the idea is to offer forward ideals of equality and equal opportunities, an argument sounds much more compelling when made by a woman.  I guess it's due to perspective: after all, it'd be like an Englishman writing a history of Scotland, or a white man talking of modern urban black society.  They can be as learned as any person can be on the subject, but unless they actually are part of the demographic in question, there's always that niggling concern in the back of the mind: how can you really know what it's like?

Thus, because Barbara and Amy are women, the impression is that they are simply more qualified to speak on the feminist elements of Howard's fiction than a man could.  It would seem to contradict the essential point of feminism - that of equal opportunities, not female superiority - to value someone's opinion more simply because of their gender, but at least in this case, it makes sense.  It's the old astronomer/astronaut question: when you want to know about the moon, do you ask the one who's studied it from afar from 50 years, or the one who's actually been there?

Monday 26 July 2010

What's Next for Dark Horse & Robert E. Howard... The Horror

Three pieces of news from Comic-Con.  One I'm nervous about, one I'm excited about, and one I... oy.

Thursday 22 July 2010

More Mark Finn at Comic-Con

I feel compelled to post this:

RevolutionSF contributor Mark Finn, noted expert on Robert E. Howard and uber-geek, will be on hand at San Diego Comic-Con this year, despite a lack of Conan-centric activities.
"While it's true that there won't be a sneak preview of the upcoming Conan movie," said Finn, "on the other hand, Elvira will be signing autographs. Elvira. 'Nuff said."
Any regular RevSF readers who wish to meet the elusive Finn can stalk him at either the Dark Horse booth, or the APE comics booth, where he will be visiting frequently.
"If you want to see me in my true element, I'm hosting a Robert E. Howard lunch and toast at the Hilton Gaslamp restaurant, New Leaf, at noon, on Friday. All are welcome, and it's buy your own food and drinks."
Finn paused and then added, "Please, no furry underpants."
Finn will be intermittently tweeting from Comic-Con. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter at FinnsWake.

Mark, if you don't get an autograph or picture of yourself with the Mistress of the Dark, I'll be sorely disappointed.  Not least because, like Morgan Fairchild, Jane Seymour and Sigourney Weaver, she's looking amazingly youthful for a woman rapidly approaching her 60s.  I call it the Joan Collins effect.

Hmm, Cassandra Peterson as Zelata, maybe?  Atla?  How 'bout that kickass Westermarck matron?

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Just in case you think I'm being overly negative... Part the Second

It's rare that I come across a review of something Howard-related that I have no problems with, but Stacy Dooks of Wild Gunmen has done just that.  What an eloquent, accurate, all-round-great overview.  In particular, this is quite possibly one of the best analogies regarding Howard's impact on the fantasy canon that I've ever read:

If you’re a fantasy fan and you’ve never read Howard, you’re the equivalent of a rock fan who’s never listened to Jimmy Hendrix.

That's itThat is the analogy I've been looking for.  Howard is the Jimi Hendrix of fantasy.

The comparisons are there. Both artists' work was very popular while they were alive, but only became widely recognized as geniuses until after their deaths.  Both artists' work spanned beyond any one genre, producing pieces of frenzied mayhem, melodic power and technical brilliance, as well as amazing gentility.  Both artists' work have origins in what contemporaneous artists were doing but their sheer talent forged those disparate elements into something new, unique, and never recaptured. Howard took the historical milieu of Lamb & Mundy, the horror of Poe & Lovecraft, the adventure of Burroughs & Haggard and his own inimical talent and themes to create Sword-and-Sorcery; Hendrix took the extended solos of Eric Clapton, the amplified feedback of The Who, the blues stylistics of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, and his own sense of style to create one of the formative sounds that would become Heavy Metal.

The pair's life is also corroborative.  Both have had episodes of their lives exaggerated and warped, usually by their critics, to give the impression of insanity or recklessness.  Heck, both even had iconic headgear (Howard with his cap, Hendrix with his headband).  I could even see the UK comparisons: Howard's only really popular in the UK for Conan and, recently, Solomon Kane, while Hendrix's only Top 40 tracks were "Voodoo Chile" and "All Along The Watchtower."

Two artists in different fields, who are yet comparable because of their impact, influence and power.  Thanks, Stacy: just what I was looking for.

Saturday 17 July 2010

The Wind in the Willows: A Tale of Terror

I can't believe I missed this, but back in June, it was announced that WETA would be producing a new adaptation of The Wind in the Willows!

The Wind in the Willows is one of my childhood favourites.  All of the characters spoke to an aspect of my personality: Mr Badger for his incongruous gentility despite his gruff exterior, Ratty for the loyalty and dedication to friends and family, Mole for the shyish kindliness and desire for adventure, Toad for the wild manias and obsessions that sometimes afflict him.  The story really spoke to me in so many ways.

Friday 16 July 2010

Preview of The Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures

I'm really looking forward to Del Rey's latest collection, and I had the privelege of seeing a preview at Howard Days.  John Watkiss is the illustrator for the book, and overall, he's doing nothing short of a fantastic job.  His illustrations for Dark Agnes in particular are things of beauty, and I'm going to relish discovering the rest.

Thursday 15 July 2010

Pigeons from Hell: One of the screenwriters speaks

Back in April, Miguel & myself did a preview of the upcoming Howard film projects, none of which inspired much confidence. One of them was Pigeons from Hell, which sounded less like the classic of southern gothic horror and more like those dime-a-dozen made-for-TV schlockers.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Alan Dean Foster: Friend of the Shieldwall

When I was at Howard Days this year, one of the coolest stories was that Alan Dean Foster (who's one of those guys that I know a lot about, but I really don't know his work as well as I should) swung by.  Jim & Ruth Keegan were massive Foster fans, and had a little geek-out of their own, making me feel better at my own star-struckness at all the Howard legends around. 

Tuesday 13 July 2010

It's a conspiracy! A conspiracy, I tells ya!

Just a few days ago, I was pondering the awesomeness that was Mark Finn doing a panel on Robert E. Howard in the comics, featuring Paul Sammon and Kurt Busiek.  This, in addition to the presence of the upcoming "Conan" film possibly including star appearances and even footage, as well as John Milius being in the vicinity.  It coulda been one for the books!

Monday 12 July 2010

Barbarian Days, Or, Celebrating Robert E. Howard While Wearing Funny Hats

Every year, fans flock to tiny Cross Plains, Texas to honor the the literary works of the town's most famous resident: Robert E. Howard. The acclaimed pulp writer is known for creating such characters as Conan the Barbarian and Kull the Conqueror, and the spirit of those characters live on through Howard's fans who find hope in his pages and unity in his memory.

It's essentially "The Howard Days Story," which sounds absolutely brilliant.  The first REHupa trip to Cross Plains, which would become "Howard Days," will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary, so it's a pretty great time to do a retrospective.

There's a four minute teaser here.

EDIT: For some reason I persistently think it's the 25th Anniversary of REHupa, when it's actually the 38th.  Mitra protect me from my own numbskullery, and eternal thanks to Rusty for patiently correcting my nonsense.

Sunday 11 July 2010

Agnes the Barbarian, and Robert E. Howard on the stage

Conan parodies are a mixed bag. They've appeared in film, comics, cartoons, literature, even new media, all running the gamut of inspired to asinine.  It seems every sort of media has some sort of Conan parody.

But a play?

Friday 9 July 2010

Conan the Movie Blog has a new master

I've been following the Conan Movie Blog for quite a while: Johannes "Waldgeist" Rebhan has been a reliable and excellent source of news.  Within a year, the blog has unique daily visitors in the thousands, and has run up hundreds of comments in each post.  It's gotten big.  Unfortunately, due to personal reasons he hasn't disclosed to me, Waldgeist is discontinuing his work.  It seemed a terrible shame to lose everything the site worked on, all the popularity and visitors it gained: first The Cimmerian, now the Conan Movie Blog.  Lame.

So, when Waldgeist got in contact with me about taking over the blog, I really had to think about it.  I'd been getting more than a few invitations to various sites, and I'd turned most of them down: I wanted to do my own thing.  For some reason, this felt different.  Conan the Movie Blog is probably the top site for people to get news on the Conan movie, and most importantly, it was a gateway to REH.  This site would provide news on the film, but it would also seek to guide people to REH too.  Thousands of unique daily visitors possibly being exposed to Howard?

This site had to continue.  So, I said yes.

Now, fear not, Lost Souls: The Blog That Time Forgot will not suffer from lack of attention, and this doesn't hinder my Shieldwall plans.  All that will happen is anything Conan movie-related that I normally post here will instead be posted at the dedicated site.  It's simply dividing work I'm already doing, not adding to it.  As an added bonus, Conan the Movie Blog uses wordpress, just like The Cimmerian: it feels a little bit like a homecoming.

The Rumour Mill of Pain trundles on: it just has a new home.

Thursday 8 July 2010

Turn off your Mind, folks: Gary Lachman's Way Ahead of You

This was a bombshell from Mikey C (of Necronomania):

You are going to love this one, comrades-in-arms. All the standard DeCampisms, plus a gratuitous link between REH and Charlie Manson of all people!

Maybe you can't really expect much from a book which solemnly recounts on page 3 the old urban myth that Manson was auditioned for the Monkees (which would have been extremely difficult as he was in prison at the time!) and then goes on to repeat just about every shaggy dog story from the period that your acid casualty friends have ever told you. But Dedalus is a highly respected publisher in receipt, I believe, of Arts Council funding.

It really puzzles me why Lachman thinks that Robert E. Howard is of such significance to the "Age of Aquarius". The Manson connection is entirely spurious - I have recently read three books about the Manson Family, and watched several documentaries, and I can assure you there is absolutely no similarity or link between any his rantings and Howard's ideas!

Anyway - here are the scans of the offending article.

More knowledgeable readers might be able to spot a source for this piece. I have just read a section of the book about Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood's exploits in California. Feeling a sense of deja vu, I picked up another book I recently read called Madame Blavatsky's Baboon by Peter Washington. Well, I'm no lawyer, but the "p" word immediately sprang to mind.

It gives me no pleasure to attack, Mr Lachman's work, btw. For a time in the 70s he went by the name of "Gary Valentine" and was an original member of Blondie. He actually wrote one of my favourite ever songs: "I'm always touched by your presence, dear".

I have no knowledge of Lachman's work, though I do have a little soft spot for Blondie: that won't save him from my searing gaze.

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Return of "REH Word of the Week"

The longest-running series on The Cimmerian blog, and one of the most popular, was Barbara Barrett's REH Word of the Week.  With The Cimmerian gone, some might be concerned that they'll lose their periodic dose of Howardian vocabulary.  Fear not, lexiophiles: Word of the Week is back!

I shan't spoil the word for the rebirth: suffice to say, it seems Babs is right back on track.  With William Patrick Maynard finding a home at Black Gate (an ideal home for the pulp-lover), hopefully the rest of the Cimmerian alumni will land on their feet.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Solomon Kane: DVD & Blu-Ray Chart-Topper!

As rumoured earlier in the week, Solomon Kane is indeed doing fantastically well in the UK, beating out The Lovely Bones, The Princess & The Frog, Twilight: New Moon, Sex & The City (fresh off a boost from the sequel) and even more on DVD for the week commencing Monday 5th July:

1Solomon Kane
2The Lovely Bones
3The Princess and the Frog
4The Twilight Saga: New Moon
5Sex and the City: The Movie
6Shrek the Third
7Alice in Wonderland
9The Twilight Saga: Twilight
10X-Men Origins - Wolverine

Kane's also kicking on Blu-Ray:

1Solomon Kane
2Alice in Wonderland
3The Princess and the Frog
5The Lovely Bones
6Edge of Darkness
7Sherlock Holmes
8The Book of Eli
9The Hurt Locker

Well done to all involved!  For all my problems with SK's faults, it tickles me pink knowing that Robert E. Howard's name and the name of one of his creations is on the front cover of the top-selling DVD & Blu-Ray charts.  There simply must be some people out there who check out the special features, want to learn more about Robert E. Howard, and get onto Google.  Welcome to the great adventure, lads & lasses!

In other news, continuing debate over at the REH Forums over whether Solomon Kane can truly be reconciled with Howard - sorry Waldgeist - has encouraged me to go through all the Kane tales again to see if there are any possible points of conflict/connection betwixt the two.  I've only gotten through a few stories so far: I'll post the complete article later on (likely after my review).  The good news for Solomon Kane fans is "Rattle of Bones" is pretty much compatible with the possibility of an Evil/Hard Man Kane.  The bad news is that "Red Shadows" isn't.  There are a multitude of problems not just from the standpoint of Kane's personality, but continuity with other tales in general, to the point where the story itself suffers a noticeable plot hole due to the events of Solomon Kane.  Either a substantial part of the story must be rendered "non-Canon," or Solomon Kane must.

I'm pretty sure that most of the shorter stories and fragments will be safe enough, but the longer works may not.  Time will tell.  It gives me a great opportunity to re-read the stories.  Can't wait to get back to "Wings in the Night."  Man, I love that story.

Monday 5 July 2010

In a Shocking Twist, The Last Airbender is adored by all

... For a given value of "adored." 

Brad the Cinema Snob, one of my new favourite internet personalities, wasn't a fan either.

Now, I've only caught a few bits of the animated series the film is based on, but what I've seen looked not bad. Unfortunately, as is so depressingly common, the film is not.  The film made many seemingly pointless changes to the beloved show's story, condensing all the plot into one, eliminating a lot of character development and background material.  The racial alterations are notorious.  To add insult to injury, it isn't even a good film: on the contrary, comparisons to Battlefield Earth and Dragon Wars (which has a special level in my personal circle of hell by virtue of the fact that it should be impossible and illegal to make a story about an epic battle between dragons and dinosaurs boring) are rife.  So, in terms of doing justice to the source material, The Last Airbender has failed utterly.

And yet, in terms of narrative... This is still more faithful to the source material than the Conan film is going to be.

Sunday 4 July 2010

A Horrible Thought: A "Conan" Novelization?

Damnit, Mikey, how could you raise such a hideous spectre?

I just had an interesting thought! Will there be a novelisation of the new movie? And if so, who do we think should write it?
My number one suggestion: Christa Faust. Anyone who can turn a joke movie like Snakes on a Plane into a rivetting read is bound to do a good job with whatever material is handed to her. Her Gabriel Hunt adventure "Beyond the Frozen Fire" shows she has a great feel for pulp adventure. 
Another thought: How about Michael Moorcock? He's done novelisations before (The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle) and has recently turned out a Dr. Who book. Or would this be the final straw on his camel's back for Howard fans?
And finally, what do we think about Ramsey Campbell? Having done the business for Solomon Kane, would he be looking for another gig? 

I'm sure you can guess what I think of the very idea of a "Conan" movie novelization.

Still, let's entertain the idea.  If they get someone who really knows Conan - really knows him - and who can shock the world by making the film somehow fit in with Howard's creation, then that might be kind of cool.  It won't happen, though.  An alternative is one where someone just doesn't care, and tries to make the film as trashy and silly as they can.  Better to be hilarious than to be dull.

Saturday 3 July 2010

Just in case you think I'm being overly negative...

I came across a really cool blog, by one J.P. Walter.  He's an English teacher who thinks Howard is a worthwhile subject for literary study.

Hell yes.

Friday 2 July 2010

Cromdamn Conan's Witnesses at the door again...

The symbol of the Conan's Witnesses, a Miliusnarian Revisionist Cromian denomination

Hilarious.  The jist of it: imagine if Conan the Barbarian fans decided to make a religion out of Crom worship, and made an unholy mishmash based mostly on the film while treating Howard as, essentially, supplementary material.  All that's missing are the irate Howardists coming around, denouncing the witnesses as blasphemers of the most profane heresy, infuriated at the mixing of the true, original texts of the great prophet Howard with the heretical teachings of the Miliusians.  Then you could get the Decampistas, the Lancer Orthodox, the Star Metal Adventists...

Thursday 1 July 2010

Another new look at Conan the Momoan (® Miguel Martins)

This time courtesy of Waldgeist's Conan Movie Blog, via BvTcH3r (the hell?) at the Robert E. Howard Forums.

Far superior to the most recent photoshopped-to-all-hell shot, but not as good as the first official shot.  Still, his hair looks a lot darker: might be due to the moisture, or Waldgeist's clean-up process.  At least he looks savage and barbaric enough, even if I still think he could've done with a bit more time at the gym.

My question is, why the hell are the Bulgarians and the French getting all the new info when this is an American film production starring an American actor as an American creation based on the work of an American author?  You poor Yankees can't catch a break.  If there isn't something at Comic Con, then they'd better do something damn special sometime this year if they want people to care about the film when it comes out.  Case in point: Thor is coming out at roughly the same time as Conan is projected (Summer 2011) and it not only has an official still of Hemsworth in costume as the God of Thunder, we have interviews with the cast and directors, behind-the-scenes videos from the set, and know plenty about the film's crew.  We know next to nothing about Conan's crew.  We don't know who's playing the roles of Lucius, Fassir & Ilira despite their important roles in the script - and if they've been excised, then we should at least know why.  Principal photography has wrapped, but we don't even have a proper, officially released still from Millennium/Nu Image/Lionsgate.

Bunch of chuckleheads, the lot of them.