Tuesday 7 September 2010

Almuric... 2!?!

I'm really enthused to be name-dropped... well, anywhere.  Makes me feel all important-like.  Over at Black Gate, Tom Doolan talks about Almuric, and mentions the introduction to my series.  It occured to me that I haven't done anything on Almuric in months.  Nor have I continued the Gazetteer, Barbarians of Middle-earth, Frazetta & Howard, or The Land That Time Forgot.  Have to do something about that.

However, Tom drops an absolute bombshell late in the article:

Of significant note to fans, a sequel titled Almuric: Lost Gods is being written for release later this year by Mark Ellis, a prolific adventure writer who has contributed numerous additions to the Outlanders and Deathlands series from Gold Eagle.

A sequel to Almuric?

I... don't know how to feel about that.  On the one hand, awesome, Almuric's getting some love.  There are many mysteries about the planet to delve into: what is the explanation for the sexual dimorphism of the Guras? Why are some of the animals distinctly earth-like, while others are utterly alien?  Where did the Guras get their guns?  What are the shrieking shadows of the Icy North, the shadowy colossi who tread the night, the shambling forms that stalk the hills?  What was the "awful vanishing" which claimed the builders of the nameless ruins?  Who built the Girdle, what was its purpose, and what's on the other side?

On the other hand, what could really be done with Almuric?  The Yaga are conquered, the citadel is destroyed, and there's peace among the Kothans and Khorans, with no strife save the daily struggle against the beasts of the planet:

Now, for the first time, there is peace between the cities of Khor and Koth, which have sworn eternal friendship to each other; and the only warfare is the unremitting struggle waged against the ferocious wild beasts and weird forms of animal life that abound in much of the planet. And we two - I an Earthman born, and Altha, a daughter of Almuric who possesses the gentler instincts of an Earthwoman - we hope to instill some of the culture of my native planet into this erstwhile savage people before we die and become as the dust of my adopted planet, Almuric.

Kind of wrapped up in a neat little package.


The final chapter of Almuric is proven completely wrong.  The Kothans and Khorans don't become bestest friends forever, and there is no hilarious renaissance emanating from the defeat of the Yagas.  Esau's immensely out-of-character narration could be the result of concussion from the destruction of Yugga.  Sure, things might be better, but not the idyllic wonderland as the final paragraph alludes.  Another possibility, if Ellis is bold, could be to say that the events of the final chapter isn't quite what really happened.  I'm still pretty sure that someone wrote the final chapters of Almuric: they read as Howardian as the final chapter of "The Challenge from Beyond" (which is to say, not very). Who's to say that the final chapter isn't some sort of fabrication, or at least a "whitewashed" version of what truly happened?  Or... The final chapter stays, and all Ellis does is introduce a new supernatural threat for Esau and co to contend with.  Lost Gods sounds like it could be something along those lines.

I'm unfamiliar with Ellis' work, but a quick saunter over to Wikipedia shows he has experience playing in other people's sandboxes: Doc Savage, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, The Green Hornet and more.  And more power to him! Still, I don't know how he's going to manage Almuric. Not even Poul Anderson or Karl Edward Wagner could fully do Robert E. Howard justice, but who knows, it might be an interesting experiment.  Cryptozoica sounds particularly interesting to me, even if I have to scratch my head at some elements:

Cryptozoica is my take on the classic Lost World theme, with strong scientific underpinnings. Shortly after visiting a dinosaur exhibition at the Museum of Natural History in NYC, I asked myself : “What if an honest-to-God lost world, a real-life version of Skull Island was actually discovered—not 100 years or 70 years ago, but right now? What effect would such a discovery have on the world’s scientific disciplines and religious beliefs?”

It has dinosaurs.  I'm interested.

I went over to Coming Attractions to find out more.

"Dinosaurs continue to be immensely popular," says Ellis, the author of 50 books. "Fascination with these animals is not a transitory fad. There are numerous TV shows and magazines and countless online groups devoted to the study and appreciation of dinosaurs."

You're a man after my own heart, Mark!

"Cryptozoica isn't your daddy's Jurassic Park or your great-grand-daddy's Lost World", quips Ellis. "The plot is multi-layered, the characters complex and the action sequences are bare-knuckled and relentless."

Whoa, easy there, Mark.  Don't be comparing yourself to Michael Crichton, much less Arthur Conan the Barbarian Doyle.  Plus, one of your characters is a Japanese girl wielding a katana, while the other is an action girl with twirly facepaint on her cheeks.  The plot/characters/action sequences better be multi-layered/complex/bare-knuckled and relentless.

I never thought of doing a sequel to Almuric, but now that the idea is presented, I can see much potential.  Perhaps Esau mounts an expedition to the far north, or past the Girdle, to see what wonders lie beyond. Maybe he investigates the ruins to uncover more of the mystery, only for whole new mysteries to present themselves. What about Hildebrand, could he have journeyed to Almuric?  Was a second expedition to Almuric mounted - and was it a peaceful mission formed of scientists, or an invasion with soldiers?  How about Hildebrand's device/plans being discovered in the 21st Century, with a new protagonist jaunting to Almuric seventy years later?  Humans might not be the only beings to have stumbled upon The Great Secret - who's to say aliens from other worlds (maybe even Yag or Yekkub?) haven't come to Almuric, with less than benevolent intentions?

If anyone's read Ellis, I'd like to know your thoughts on the man, and if he's more likely to be an adequate John Maddox Roberts, a mediocre Lin Carter, or a shameful Steve Perry.


  1. This post demonstrate that real fans don't complain about "pastiches": the problem is, most of them are BAD.

  2. Ellis's Outlanders novels are a lot of fun. Next to The Destroyer, that series might be my favorite of the modern "hero pulp" writing.

  3. Well, that's the thing, K: even the Purist Manifesto isn't against pastiches in and of themselves. He - and I think most purists - just don't want them to be put on an equal level with Howard, where pastiche and Howard are collected in one book, for example. Rusty Burke even says that this results in more, and better, pastiches:

    Note that, while most of us have little interest in pastiches, we do not deny anyone the right to produce them. In fact, the "purist" position would actually result in more and better pastiches. How? By opening up the entire Conan "saga" to any writer to produce his or her own interpretations of episodes from Conan's career. Working from hints in Howard's work, any number of writers could give us their own versions of Conan's rise to kingship, say, or any other of his adventures not actually chronicled by REH. Currently, the artificial "biography" of Conan originally created by P. Schuyler Miller and John D. Clark, but later considerably amended and expanded by L. Sprague de Camp, effectively prevents any such situation. Those who control the Conan "property" insist that writers must follow de Camp's outline of Conan's career, and one and only one version of any given episode or period is allowed. This actually stifles, rather than encourages, creativity. De Camp has suggested that lack of rigid controls could result in such abominations as a gay Conan. My response is: so what? I'm sure that those who plead that Conan should be "consumer friendly" and that we should give the readers what they want, no matter what it is they want, would have to agree that there is nothing inherently wrong with gay people having their own Conan.

    The Conan stories should be treated as the Sherlock Holmes stories are treated by their aficionados: only the actual works of the creator of the series (in our case, REH) should be accounted "canonical": all else is pastiche. There are many Sherlock Holmes pastiches out there, some of them based on the same hints from Doyle. I myself own several versions of the "giant rat of Sumatra" tale, for instance. But Sherlockians all agree that the original tales of Dr. Watson as told to Conan Doyle are the only truly canonical works.

    And, of course, the problem with pastiches isn't just that, but that most of them aren't very good. After all, I can still enjoy "Shadows over Baker Street" without having to consider it "canon" with Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories: back in the bad old days, Conan the Liberator was - effectively - canon. And that sucked.

    Incidentally, there are many incidents and events in the Howard stories that are alluded to, yet aren't capitalized upon at all in any of the pastiches. Sure, most continuities (that matter) have Conan captured by Hyperboreans, burn the Stygian fleet at Khemi, and show his rise to kingship; but what about the "civilized mysteries" of Brythunia? Or when he saw "death strike a king in the midst of thousands"? Why does nobody seem to do anything with Ajonga, Yasunga and Laranga, whom Conan recognizes among a sea of very similar black people after over twenty years? I've actually compiled a pretty big list of them that I'll probably put up sometime, "The Lost Conan Adventures" or some such.

    Thanks for the impressions, Andy. I got a feeling Ellis was in it for sheer love of pulp, so here's hoping he remembers that there's more to REH than pulp.

  4. Oh, and it turns out none other than Mark Finn will be writing his own pastiche, an El Borak comic for the upcoming "Savage Sword" magazine. I've no idea how it'll end up, but if Mark's as great at spinning yarns as he is orating, it'll be something special.

  5. That 'Cryptozoica' sounds pretty interesting - I'll have to check it out at some point (it was decent when it was 'Fragment' by Warren Fahy, after all). Thanks for pointing it out.

    That quotation about purists and pastiche works is close to the mark, I think. Another example is the difference between the Star Wars & Star Trek expanded universes - as far as I'm aware, all the Star Wars novels, comics, etc. are considered 'canon', while none of the Star Trek ones are. Is there a connection between this fact and my preference for Trek novels? Maybe. Hey, that gives me an idea for a blog post - Thanks again!

  6. "Fragment"? I'm piqued!

    The Trek/Wars comparison rings true. Though I like some of the Wars stories, there are some really good Trek novels too - some better than "canon." I actually quite liked Shatner's "Generations" fix series, the only good thing to come out of that awful film. David & Carey are great too, and Fontana's are a given. Honestly, I don't know why they didn't just go to them for new Trek series, they clearly know what they're doing.

  7. You forgot Iron Hand of Almuric, Roy Thomas' take on an Almuric sequel.


    (still looking for the back issues)

  8. I didn't think of "Iron Hand of Almuric" since... well, actually I don't know why I didn't! I'll have to hunt for the back issues myself.

  9. very curious for me the expression sandboxes, I have read it about videogames,what is exactly?
    did I read something about a new Savage sword of Conan?

  10. By "sandbox" I simply mean the created world, rather the its use in videogames. In games, it refers to simply placing the character in an open world one can wander about in, as opposed to progressive "levels"/

    You did indeed: Dark Horse are doing a new Savage Sword, but it concentrates on other Robert E. Howard characters:


    Paul Tobin's doing a Conan story, Dark Agnes might be appearing, and none other than Mark Finn will be writing an El Borak story. Looks awesome!

  11. I'm pretty stoked about an Almuric sequel. It's not REH's hand, but oh well, what can we do? I loved the world of Almuric, and REH's approach to his own imagining of a ERB Mars style story. I wish I could have seen more from REH, but I'm willing to try someone else's spin. I'm not betting the house on this sequel to be an awesome pastiche, but I'm willing to go along and see what happens.

  12. Me too, Jesse. I view pastiches like I view the Trek novels: a fun exercise, but they don't affect the "real" stories. Unlike the Trek novels, however, no non-Howard story has come close to Howard, whereas there are plenty of Trek novels I'd take over some of the worse episodes and films.

  13. This intrigues me, might end up getting it. There were a few unanswered questions at the end of Almuric, like what was beyond the Girdle.
    Wonder if we'll start seeing more Howard character pastiches.
    We've already had a Solomon Kane novelization this year.

  14. Hi, Taranaich! :)

    I'm editing a free pdf translation of Almuric in order of leaving it 100% Howardian, and, after reading your comments here, I'd like to know if I have to omit the excerpt "Now, for the first time, there is peace between the cities of Khor and Koth, which have sworn eternal friendship to each other; and the only warfare is the unremitting struggle waged against the ferocious wild beasts and weird forms of animal life that abound in much of the planet", or the whole final paragraph? Or even the whole final chapter?

    Best wishes, and thanks in advance,

    Fernando Neeser.

    1. Ahoy Fernando, sorry I haven't responded in a while.

      The problem with Almuric is that it's very difficult to tell exactly when REH stops and the mysterious collaborator begins, though it seems clear that the amount of Howard in the final chapter is minimal in comparison to the rest. Going purely by my gut and my take on the situation, I'd leave out the final chapter entirely: this unfortunately results in something of a cliffhanger, but them's the breaks.

    2. Thanks, Al! :) I'll do it. Have a nice week, my friend! :)

    3. hi Fernando,
      Any progress on your edit? What method do you use to separate the wheat from the chaff?

  15. Taranaich, I eagerly anticipate the continuation of your series of posts on Almuric.

    Neeser, other than eliminating the final chapter (or two?) how do you decide what text to remove in order to purify it?