Wednesday 30 May 2012

The Scottish Invasion

I'm monkeying about with settings on the blog, so hopefully this'll stay pinned at the top.

Being in America is full of adventure, but in a strange irony, my internet access is even more limited than back home.  Therefore, while I'll endeavour to post, moderate comments and reply as often as I can, I'm afraid there might be spaces of days between them.  Just so everyone knows I'm not ignoring my duties, I'm still hard at work on the Encyclopedia and various essays and posts when I'm not trying not to die of heatstroke or dehydration.

80 Years of Conan: "Cimmeria"

The more I reviewed the introduction's appraisal of Conan's literary origins in Howard's work, the more I felt one "immediate predecessor" deserved proper inclusion into the Conan canon, and that there was even more to say about this particular piece. The fact that it has been included in several Conan anthologies - particularly the Del Rey collections, as well as countless public domain books - just strengthens the case.
So before we get into the first Conan story, let's look a bit more closely at "Cimmeria."

Friday 25 May 2012

80 Years of Conan: Introduction

I’ve been working on a new character, providing him with a new epoch – the Hyborian Age, which men have forgotten, but which remains in classical names, and distorted myths.
 - Robert E. Howard, letter to H.P. Lovecraft, circa April 1932

2012 marks the eightieth year of Conan the Cimmerian’s presence in the popular consciousness. Following the previous year’s multitude of anniversaries (the Cross Plains Centennial, the 75th of Howard’s death, the 50th of Glenn Lord’s Howard Collector, among others) there is one other notable landmark in the 30th anniversary of John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian. While the cultural significance of the film deigns it worthy of recognition on such a year, the much greater milestone of the character’s first appearance in any medium should not go unnoticed.

And so it shan’t. In the months leading to December, I will be embarking upon a retrospective of all the Conan stories, fragments, synopses and related material of Howard’s most famous son: arguably one of the most recognizable characters in all fantastic literature, almost certainly the most recognizable barbarian in popular media, and one of the pillars of the Sword and Sorcery genre.

No doubt other tributes dedicated to the greater Conan franchise which has exploded over the past eight decades will appear across the internet, and better left to those more adequately versed in the comics, pastiches, films and television series. I’m just going to talk about the stories that started it all.

Monday 21 May 2012

America, Och Aye

To Whomsoever finds this blog post,

Even though I’d been to this strange, otherworldly place before, the land has a strange habit of surprising you. Just as you think you’ve accounted for the climate, the wildlife, the flora and the residents, something you simply didn’t expect can throw you for a loop. I’ve been here for a few days, a week, I can’t tell with these strange days where the sun is shining and nary a drop of rain nor a tuft of cloud to offer shelter from its well-meaning but often destructive gaze. For two or three days I had internet access, but even that has confounded me. I’ve kept myself sane by working and reading,* and keeping myself cool and hydrated. Considering I had once been hospitalised for dehydration back home in Scotland, this is something of a concern.

Still, I managed being torn away from the beloved internet. After all, I managed for most of my childhood: 8-year-old Aly wouldn’t see the problem, and probably marvel at the tiny notebook computer I’m using. Indeed, it’s given me a chance to appreciate where I am more, and the things the locals take as normal which utterly fascinate me.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

The Third Scottish Invasion of Cross Plains

Only a week or so until I make my trip into the sky on a great metal bird to alight in an environment that's about as close to alien as I've ever been: as such, I'll likely be scarce around these parts until I've settled a bit.  I have a few posts which have been "in the works" for a while, but they may lack pictures, depending on the availability and speed of the local internet.

When I think about it, Arizona can be a frightening place: temperatures in Phoenix are regularly over 100°F (I'm tempted to bring an umbrella at this point), deadly spiders prowl in the shadows, the most venomous scorpion of the country skitters across the rocks, the snake responsible for the second most deaths in America each year, and the laws of the land are strange and frightening to me.  The law about not refusing anyone a glass of water seems pretty reasonable to me, though. And then there's the landscape, a burning world where simply walking in the street can strike you down with heatstroke if you aren't careful. At least I'm used to prickly plant life.

I plan on attending the Phoenix Comic-Con with my new pal, where I'll try my luck talking to William Shatner and Caspar Van Dien, as well as anyone else.  If anyone reading the blog's in the area, I'll probably be fairly easy to spot, in that while I'm sure there'll be lots of big bearded bespectacled beponytailed chaps there, I'm fairly confident that I'll be one of the few to be speaking with a Scottish accent.

Now all I need to do is find a place there that stocks Peppermint Cordial and I'll be set.

Friday 4 May 2012

May the Fourth Be With You

And because several people I know have been demanding it, I make an observation of Star Wars Day.

Part of it bothers me because I always preferred "The Force Will Be With You Always" as a motivational soundbyte, but you have to admit taking the homonym and actually going so far as to recognize it as an Official Day is rather fun.

Good Scot/Bad Scot: The Avengers

I never thought I'd live in a world where I can choose from three different sets of illustrations with the theme "what if the Avengers were dinosaurs," but apparently we as a species have reached this point.

2012 is a year inundated with projects that seem like licenses to print money.  We had 3D re-releases of the first instalment of a pop culture phenomenon and one of the most successful films in cinematic history, and we have yet to look forward to the finale of Chris Nolan's shockingly lucrative Batman series, the return of Ridley Scott to the Alien universe, and the first half of a cinematic prequel to what is undoubtedly one of the biggest fantasy film success stories in recent memory. The Phantom Menace, Titanic, The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey would be sure things in any one year, but fate has brought them all together - and to top it all off, in the same year as a film many comic fans considered an impossible dream not five years ago.

I saw The Avengers on the 26th of April with my ever-tireless assistant.  In a year filled with undeserved flops like John Carter and infuriating successes like Wrath of the Titans,* I really could do with a blockbuster that wasn't criminally underrated or undeservedly successful, at least in my estimation. It remains to be seen whether The Avengers gets the type of money Disney were looking for, but I would be astonished if they didn't.