Saturday 5 November 2011

S.H.I.E.L.D.W.A.L.L. Operation Auntie






Agent Taranaich here. I felt strongly enough about the recent episode of The Review Show to contact the BBC directly through their complaints facility.  A transcript of the document follows below:

I wish to complain about the final segment of "The Review Show," where Stewart Lee is introduced by Kirsty Wark. She makes the claim that the works which Lee will be discussing are out of print: a simple internet search would prove that this is hardly the case. In fact, Robert E. Howard's work has been printed in dozens of easily attainable collections and anthologies in the past decade alone, the most recent of which was published last month.  Arthur Machen's work is similarly prolific, and can be found in many publications from the last ten years, including this year. Of the three, Nina Hamnett is the least available, but even her novel "Laughing Torso" has been published five times since 2004. All of these works can be purchased new from

Secondly, and much more seriously, Lee claims that Robert E. Howard was "mad" and "insane," two highly inflammatory descriptions which are downright libellous, but more importantly unsubstantiated by any research or scholarship from Howard experts in modern times. Lee supports this statement by claiming that Howard "maintained that he didn't write" any of the stories, but instead was dictated to by characters standing over his shoulder: this is a gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Howard's complex writing process, and ignores the fact that Howard made pains to ensure no-one took his metaphorical descriptions literally:

Robert E. Howard has long been the subject of much misrepresentation and misunderstanding in the years since his death, be it from biased critics to well-meaning but inept biographers, and it was difficult to separate fact from fiction for many years. However, Howard scholarship has made great strides in the past 30 years through the efforts of Glenn Lord, the Robert E. Howard United Press Association, the Robert E. Howard Foundation (I am a member of both organisations), and countless others of professional and amateur backgrounds who work tirelessly to dispel the myths and rumours and uncover and uphold the truth. By bringing up an old, easily disproven myth, this program has undermined its integrity, and failed to provide an accurate representation of its subject.

If Wark, Lee et al were discussing a present-day author in such a careless manner, I think they would be served with papers suing them for libel.  In this day and age, it is unacceptable to broadcast inaccurate and damaging statements about historic individuals when it could have been easily avoided by a minimal amount of research.

I would like an on-air clarification of the facts of Robert E. Howard's life as understood by the latest research by experts in the field, and an acknowledgement that the statements presented by Wark and Lee were erroneous and inaccurate.  I would also like an on-air acknowledgement of the availability of Howard's, Machen's and Hamnet's work in recent years.

The corporation warns that a response will be made within the next ten days: my goal is that the next episode of The Review Show will acknowledge their mistake on-air, and hope to undo the damage such statements may have made. I request all S.H.I.E.L.D.W.A.L.L. agents in Alba Division to follow the same procedure, and for international agents to consider a similar means of action through BBC Worldwide, or the local branch. As ever, keep the mantra of savage courtesy in mind.

Shields Up,

--Agent Taranaich


  1. Agent Taranaich, you rock! If I'd heard this show I'd be lining up to go over the top also, but sadly I usually only get to hear the hour long 'news' summary on BBC World. It would go against my own savage ethic to attack just because my leader said so, so this little agent will remain in place in the Great Southern Land, awaiting a legitimate excuse for guts and glory charge against ignorance.

  2. You would think the Beeb would do a modicum of research for their premier arts show. I just checked Amazon, and the Kindle edition of "Laughing Torso" was published on 20 October! The only out of print book is "The Green Round". The Tartarus Press was very pleased with the mention, but overall I think the publishing industry is being poorly served.

  3. Thank you, Agent Adelaide Gamer! Ultimately, I think it's fairly important that a show which is watched by tens of thousands of viewers get their basic facts right. The sad thing is, I get the distinct impression Stewart had a lot more to say on REH as well as the books, but the editors decided to only include the juicy "Crazy Texan" part. Wark's condescending "maybe there's a REASON they're out of print, har har" certainly hints at their editorial policy.

    Agent Mikey, it is laughable. Even "The Green Round" was printed in 2000, so it hasn't exactly been out of print for decades. And while I'm ticked off by what they said about Howard, I'm none too pleased that Tartarus, Wildside, Chaosium and others who have published Machen get treated like chopped liver, to say nothing of Machen himself.

  4. My response to the Beeb is here:

  5. Hi Al, I was going to voice a protest with a post on Black Gate this week, but I'm unable to view the video (apparently it's only available to UK residents). Are there any other sites that carry it?

  6. My response to the Beeb is here:

    Good job, Mikey! I'm actually surprised this isn't getting more of a backlash, though perhaps Brian's difficulties explain:

    Hi Al, I was going to voice a protest with a post on Black Gate this week, but I'm unable to view the video (apparently it's only available to UK residents). Are there any other sites that carry it?

    I'm afraid not. The only way I can think of is to link using a proxy server that circumvents the nonsensical, ridiculous and counterproductive regional lockout, but I don't want to get you or BG in trouble for using such "extreme" measures. Perhaps BBC America?