The SFFaudio Podcast #395 – READALONG: The Slithering Shadow by Robert E. Howard

November 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #395 – Jesse and Wayne June talk about The Slithering Shadow (aka Xuthal Of The Dusk) by Robert E. Howard

Talked about on today’s show:
Wayne’s first exposure to Robert E. Howard, “repetitious and childish, a self-vitiating brew of pseudo-science”, stage illusions and , repetition, “Oh, Conan!, Robert would have wanted it that way, REH is having some fun with a genre he normally doesn’t play in, Red Nails, Conan is dismissive of the city’s population, degeneration, drug addled drug attics in dopey hazes, lasers, radium light bulbs, manufacturing food from the primal elements, Valeria vs harem slave Natala, devious, controlling, self-interested, a lot of depth behind the shallowness in this story, Conan is really grumpy from page one, gigantic mirth: she’s only human, curmudgeon Conan, poisoning the well, don’t grab my sword arm, slap on the ass, a grumpy sexist, Howard’s doing something really really funny, The Slithering Shadow is a gothic horror, silliness, women written like cartoon characters, not reminding you of your mortality, not about the uselessness of existence, clunky elements, a haunted castle, kicking and screaming, bad casting, trap doors, up to the hilt, sitting on another divan, sooo gothic horror novel, hidden passageways, trapdoors, convoluted coincidence, Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval Portrait, very recently and hurriedly abandoned, still food on the table, candles that have just been blown out, one spot of blood, The Monk, a giant helmet, a giant dome at the center of the city, one giant palace, all the trappings of a haunted mansion, switching gears, describing Thog, jumping right into H.P. Lovecraft, men of action, biting the Lovecraftian horror, what Cimmerians are like, passive aggressive Conan, in all of Howards writings about Conan, a blood feud, a lack of reproduction, an H.G. Wells trick, why the drug element is so heavy, the golden wine (a healing potion), Howard’s doctor father was very familiar with heroin addiction, Fort McMurray, “morons”, barbarians vs. the civilized, Thalis’ experience, the Fred Van Lente adaptation for Dark Horse Comics, initiated into the cult of Derketa, not my first rodeo, a gang-bang, better to kill Natala, Thalis’ life story is a horror show hidden behind a few words, that’s the cover of Weird Tales, who is this story intended for?, racy, sex, before Natala knifed Thalis, I don’t like getting stabbed, taught to be hard and cruel, Thalis’ chance at revenge, a Stygian Queen, growing up with doped out morons, a gruesome comeuppance, Thog doesn’t just eat you he rapes you first, digested for a thousand years, tentacles, the face of Thog, a non-euclidean face, a 40 year Texas feud, Thog at the center bottom of the city, a big black amorphous mass, Thog is the mad lady in the attic, a stoic attitude towards destiny and fate, from the likes of Thog, Thog is the oil, the cause for the addiction and for the city, unseen until it gushes all over you, fundamentally Howard is not completely wrong about civilization, trigger warnings and sexism, the limitations on what a woman can be in Xuthal (get a real man), moral judgements, his own code of ethics, stealing a slave, Natala’s safety is bound up with his morality, a kind of a rescue, the rebel Prince Almuric, a great river flowing into the desert, dead with forty arrows, canteen full of water, a rich and decadent place, black lotus, cursed, the desert will be kinder, a rebel prince of Stygia, Thalis was like a Natala, she’s the heavy (other than Thog), whip up some anger, Thalis is a Natala without a Conan, this “civilized” society, one of the worst Conan stories by one of the best writers of pulp fiction is still a pretty good story, super-hero-ish, Howard was smart at marketing, Margaret Brundage, lesbian scenes on the cover, gratuitous nudity, temptation, Queen Of The Black Coast, Belit, a pirate queen, first mate (literally), Belit runs that story, a noir awesome ending, the coincidence, “I guess I could do a gothic – Conan won’t like this”, having fun with it, all those tropes, the comics adaptations, done in Stygian, when Conan talks in word balloons, a rough-hewn word balloon (a Cimmerian accent?), you don’t want to do Arnold, a pulpy breezy, showing the Xuthalians hooked up to IVs, smoking your black lotus, the den of an opium smoker, chasing the dragon, enough backstory to make it interesting, an opium inundated culture, yellow skinned, China in decline, the Hermit Kingdom, decadence collapsing, a yellow peril story, San Fransisco, Chinatown, Lovecraftian elements, The Hour Of The Dragon, start with a random story, outliers, Beyond The Black River, Queen Of The Black Coast, an epicness, forty issues of awesome adventure, the tie between pulp adventure and comics, comics are the legacy of the pulps, The Shadow, Doc Savage is a pulp superhero with a super-team, in the 1970s, Conan The Barbarian, the Roy Thomas adaptation from Savage Sword of Conan #20, 1977, essentially nudity, heads being lopped off, no blood and no death, Curtis Publications, kick-ass stories, amazing pulp adventure, a 60 page comic adaptation, “freely adapting”, Conan finds a lost valley – Iskander’s kingdom, crocodile men and bird men, walking zombies, all sorts of things need to have their heads lopped off, Marvel was the dark side vs. DC, sel-doubt and existential anxierty of the heros, John Buscema, Alfredo Alcala, Ernie Chan, the amazing Filipino artists drawing busty ladies and big armed barbarians, Warren Comics, Heavy Metal, Richard Corben, so much richness in the non-superhero comics, Pepe Moreno, Rebel (1984), Mad Max meets Escape From New York with Nazis, a hot rod gang with a heart of gold, victory by blowing up the World Trade Center, power in visualizing, the “steely thews” of Conan, eldritch vs. thews, cat-like, jaguar, pantherish, the battle scenes really flowed, Howard highly influenced by Lovecraft, The Black Stone, an elegance of colour, colour in every particle of sand, the opposite of Lovecraft, with Lovecraft the horrible thing makes its appearance and you faint, Howard wades in on it, Lovecraft would never do that, one can’t battle gods and get away with a whole skin, psychic damage vs. physical damage, Howard is a complement to Lovecraft, physicality, fighting against the inevitability, there’s life there, bleak and grey vs. blood flying everywhere, Robert E. Howard was a lot lustier, “a superfluity of naughtiness”, tongue in cheek, “spicy”, Railroad Man’s Magazine, Air Stories, Zeppelin Stories, True Detective, Spicy Detective, Spicy Mystery, Spicy Adventure, Twilight is nothing new, sexist so sexist, racist so racist, women readers asking for more nudity and spicy, reading it with one hand, women liked and wrote for Weird Tales, Dorothy Quick, Mark Twain, Maude Ludington Cain, yeah it’s sexist, keep behind me girl, “Why is he calling her a girl?”, “Oh, he’s sexist.”, visualizing what is said, what if someone saw us?, there’s blood on the stones, Conan at his stupidest, a crimson mist descended over his eyes, don’t let the blind bull-headed grumpiness be a guide for what he’s like, there’s a great character there.

Weird Tales - The Slithering Shadow by Robert E. Howard

Weird Tales - The Slithering Shadow by Robert E. Howard

The Savage Sword Of Conan issue 20 - THE SLITHERING SHADOW

The Savage Sword Of Conan issue 20 - THE SLITHERING SHADOW

The Savage Sword Of Conan issue 20 - THE SLITHERING SHADOW

The Savage Sword Of Conan issue 20 - THE SLITHERING SHADOW

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conantheavengerissue14565

conantheavengerissue14thaliasstory565

conantheavengerissue15565

The Slithering Shadow illustrated by Benito Gallego

Posted by Jesse Willis

The Travels Of Conan And Belit – AN ANNOTATED CHART OF THE BLACK COAST

June 19, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: News 

SFFaudio News

I’m still of the opinion, many many years after first reading it, that The Queen Of The Black Coast is Robert E. Howard’s very best story. It’s an epic fantasy romance adventure tragedy.

I love it. How can you not love a passage like this:

Belit shuddered. “Life, bad as it is, is better than such a destiny.
What do you believe, Conan?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “I have known many gods. He who denies them
is as blind as he who trusts them too deeply. I seek not beyond death.
It may be the blackness averred by the Nemedian skeptics, or Crom’s
realm of ice and cloud, or the snowy plains and vaulted halls of the
Nordheimer’s Valhalla. I know not, nor do I care. Let me live deep
while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging
wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation
of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content.
Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of
reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no
less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live,
I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.”

We’ve done two podcasts of it:

One was the audiobook, HERE. And one the other was the audio drama, HERE.

But the story, as I first encountered it, was a different adaptation, a serialized and expanded comics version published from the mid to late 1970s. Indeed, Marvel Comics’ Roy Thomas thought there must have been good material in there as he played out that story, expanding upon this paragraph:

The Tigress ranged the sea, and the black villages shuddered. Tomtoms
beat in the night, with a tale that the she-devil of the sea had found
a mate, an iron man whose wrath was as that of a wounded lion. And
survivors of butchered Stygian ships named Belit with curses, and a
white warrior with fierce blue eyes; so the Stygian princes remembered
this man long and long, and their memory was a bitter tree which bore
crimson fruit in the years to come.

And it ran for three years and 40 issues – from issue #58 (January, 1976) to issue #100 (July, 1979) and in those years Belit and Conan adventured.*

I spent much of the 1980s finding, collecting, and reading those back issues. After years I had a complete run of the comic. But only this week, approximately 30 years later, did I find this, an oversized two-page map chronicling the travels of Conan and Belit in those comics!

Behold, and click through to see the 1979 map published only in the Marvel Treasury Edition #23 (words by Roy Thomas, cartography by Mark Rogan):

The Travels Of Conan And Belit

[*still available in Volumes 8 – 12 of Dark Horse’s The Chronicles of Conan]

Posted by Jesse Willis

Where To Start With Conan Comics

December 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio News

After listening The SFFaudio Podcast #133 (which features Beyond The Black River by Robert E. Howard), a listener named Bunny wrote in to inquire about “collector’s editions” of Conan comics, where to get them and what to start with. I’ve made this video, which I’ve titled, Where To Start With Conan Comics, as a reply.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #133 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: Beyond The Black River by Robert E. Howard

November 7, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #133 – Beyond The Black River by Robert E. Howard, read by Todd McLaren (courtesy of Tantor Media’s The Conquering Sword Of Conan). This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novelette (2 Hours 29 Minutes) followed by a discussion of it (by Jesse and Tamahome).

Talked about on today’s show:
Todd McLaren, Conan’s voice is confident, Balthus is the Jimmy Olsen to Conan’s Superman, Robert E. Howard’s avatar in Beyond The Black River is Balthus, “the damnedest bastard who ever lived”, “buckets of mead”, a noble death, a prominently displayed dog, barbarism vs. civilization, Red Nails, “the viking hat”, The Savage Sword Of Conan, Roy Thomas, John Buscema, Tam is a Conan novice, The Last Of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, western, “alabaster skin”, the triumph of Barbarism (is the coda for the story), Texas, would the 1% agree with Howard?, Picts, the world of Hyboria, Cimmeria was a real place, history, historical romance, physical display, don’t overblow the homo-eroticism, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.P. Lovecraft, autodidacts, Margaret Atwood’s interview on CBC’s Q, “occasionals”?, Walt Whitman and Henry James, The Turn Of The Screw, sword and sorcery, did Howard invent the barbarian as a character?, Genghis Khan, forbidden knowledge, Howard and Jack London, The Call Of The Wild, California, Alaska, Yukon, slavery, civilization to barbarism, “a Conan dog”, atavism, Zogar Sag is the Jesus to Jhebbal Sag’s God, secret language magic, secret symbols, Conan The Barbarian, Conan is at the height of his power, atavistic magic, “what was I missing”, chatty Conan, Brian Wood’s new Conan comic (adapting Queen Of The Black Coast), Barry Windsor Smith, “he’s busy getting revenge”, a distillation of what’s in the stories, Conan and the philosophers, Oliver Stone and John Milius, Conan The Destroyer, sword vs. sorcery, Berserk (manga), “if you were in the Hyborian age which god would you worship?”, “a Klingon god”, “who is the good guy in Beyond The Black River?”, why does Conan side with the Aquilonians?, “swarthy white men”, Conan is bronzed by the sun not swarthy, end the Jersey Shore references, “this is a war story”, Conan doesn’t believe in an external valuation, why is there only one Devil?, Gullah the Gorilla God – the hairy one who lives on the moon, Africa, Aquilonia is France, Hyboria is Europe, Hyperborea (boreal + hyper = far north), Stygia = Egypt, Texas history, the Picts are the Comanche in this story, Julius Caesar, degenerating white men, Kull, Brule The Spearslayer, “noble savage”, a “symphony of racism”, Bran Mak Morn: The Last King by Robert E. Howard, Kings In The Night, The Whole Wide World, The One Who Walks Alone by Novalyne Price Ellis, Vincent D’Onofrio as Robert E. Howard channeling Conan, photographs of Robert E. Howard, Howard was a LARPer, “Howard was a rough-hewn intellectual”, boxing, gun culture vs. cat culture, WWII, Lidice, “even a white man’s dog is worth more than seven Picts”, Bill Hollweg’s Queen Of The Black Coast audio drama, would Beyond The Black River make a good audio drama?, Lou Anders’ Hollywood Formula doesn’t work here, philosophy of the woods, audiobooks and comics are better than movies, SSOC #26 & #27, Dark Horse’s Savage Sword Of Conan, Volume 3, ostrich feathers tell a story, a frontier story, Weird Tales covers by Margaret Brundage, the Hulk, supple, Red Nails would be a good readalong, laser beams and dinosaurs.

TANTOR MEDIA - The Conquering Sword Of Conan by Robert E. Howard

Weird Tales - Beyond The Black River by Robert E. Howard - illustration by Hugh Rankin

Weird Tales - Beyond The Black River by Robert E. Howard - illustration by Hugh Rankin - "Fierce joy surged through him."

Beyond The Black River - illustrated by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala

Beyond The Black River - illustrated by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala

Beyond The Black River - illustrated by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala

Beyond The Black River - illustrated by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala

Posted by Jesse Willis

Gods Of The North by Robert E. Howard

September 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

“Anybody ought to be willing to pay a dollar for the privilege of reading, for a whole year, the works of Lovecraft, Smith, and Derleth.”

-Robert E. Howard (from a letter to Fantasy Fan, December 1933)

“I am so happy that we were able to quickly clear up this misunderstanding. We have accepted Orion’s apology without reservation and I thank our lawyers, and Orion’s lawyers, on both sides of the Atlantic for helping us resolve our issues. Orion was a great licensee of ours for many years and we are delighted to have reached an agreement to renew and expand that relationship. We are already brainstorming the many new productive ways we can work together in the future. Those of us who work at Paradox have put a lot of work into protecting and developing our wide array of Robert E. Howard derived brands since we got into the Robert E. Howard business. The new Conan movie will wrap next month, the Age of Conan MMOG recently launched a big expansion, and we are well along in the development of a number of other feature films and licensed products which we will be announcing shortly. Orion is perfectly positioned as a leading science fiction/fiction publisher which can provide the wider audience we want to reach the real thing, REH’s original stories”

-Fredrik Malmberg, President and CEO of Paradox Entertainment, Inc. and its subsidiaries (Conan Properties International) (from a 2010 press release)

Gods Of The North, first published in 1934, is still just one of two Conan stories available on LibriVox.org (the other being Red Nails). Gods Of The North is a 3,500 word vignette, it’s been republished under the titles The Frost Giant’s Daughter and The Frost King’s Daughter. The reason it survives, and is known today, has nothing to do with marketing campaigns, intellectual property protection or lawyers. It survives for one reason alone – it survives because of it’s fans. In fact, it survives despite it being originally written as a piece for sale. It was actually rejected by Weird Tales magazine editor Farnsworth Wright:

The Frost-Giant's Daughter Rejection Letter

Check it out… Gods Of The North was first published in a fan magazine (that had just sixty subscribers) – a fan magazine that counted both H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard among its feature (and letters column) contributors. Neither Lovecraft nor Howard wrote to, or for, THE FANTASY FAN because it was a profitable venture – they wrote to it, and for it, because they were themselves fans of fantasy and the stories and poems they were weaving. You may know the story. It’s a pretty famous one today, but it isn’t famous because it was a well marketed, properly licensed by the right’s holder, or branded. It is, instead, because it’s a good story that fans (another word for readers) appreciate.

Gods Of The North was nearly forgotten. It lay un-reprinted and virtually unknown for more than thirty years until it was re-discovered and reprinted in the December 1956 issue of Fantastic Universe. Here is the editorial introduction for that reprinting:

The publication of this strange story by Robert E. Howard, author of the Conan stories, so much a part of the Living Library of Fantasy, represents a departure for this magazine. Without abandoning our policy of bringing you, month after month, the best in NEW Science Fiction and Fantasy. We will, front time to time, publish material such as this, hitherto known to only a few students of the field! GODS OF THE NORTH was published in 1934, in Charles D. Hornig’s THE FANTASY FAN, which had a circulation of under a hundred! We thank Sam Moskowitz, Editor and SF historian, who showed us this story.

Here’s the |PDF|, it’s also available (with a slightly different text) at |WIKISOURCE|

Here’s my description of the plot:

A winter war in the mountains of Vanaheim, and a bit of gossamer, are all that stand between Conan of Cimmeria and the frosty beauty who spurns him.

And here’s the audiobook:

LibriVox Fantasy - Gods Of The North by Robert E. HowardGods of the North
By Robert E. Howard; Read by Rowdy Delaney
1 |MP3| – Approx. 21 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: September 21, 2008
She drew away from him, dwindling in the witch·fire of the skies, until she was a figure no bigger than a child. First published in the March 1934 issue of The Fantasy Fan.

Here’s the same reading, with additional commentary:

PodcastlePodcastle #162 – Gods Of The North
By Robert E. Howard; Read by Rowdy Delaney
1 |MP3| – Approx. 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Podcastle
Podcast: June 21, 2011

My copy of Conan’s Brethren (a Gollancz collection of Howard stories), edited by Stephen Jones, features this striking image by Les Edwards (aka Edward Miller):

The Frost King's Daughter - illustration by Les Edwards

Comics adaptations:

Savage Tales #1 (May 1971) – The first comics adaptation, adapted by Roy Thomas (writer) and Barry Windsor Smith (artist):

Savage Tales - The Frost Giant's Daughter

Conan the Barbarian #16 (July 1972) – a colorized version of the ST #1 adaptation, except with Comics Code Authority self-censorship and an additional splash page:

Conan The Barbarian - Night Of The Frost Giants

Savage Sword of Conan #1 (August 1974) – an uncoloured and uncensored (full nudity is back) version of the same adaptation from Conan The Barbarian #16 and Savage Tales #1, but featuring the added splash page (in black and white this time) from CTB #16:

The Savage Sword Of Conan - ADDED SPLASH (in black and white) - The Frost Giant's Daughter

Conan #2 (March 2004) adapted by Kurt Busiek (writer) and Cary Nord (artist) – cover art by Joseph Michael Linsner:

Dark Horse - Conan #2 - The Frost Giant's Daughter - COVER

Conan #2 - The Frost Giant's Daughter - INTERIOR

But the fan connection doesn’t end there. The artist most closely associated with the Marvel Comics run of Conan The Barbarian and Savage Sword Of Conan was John Buscema. But, he never illustrated an adaptation of Gods Of The North or The Frost Giant’s Daughter. And so it was up to fan artists, like the impressively talented Benito Gallego, to step in to imagine what a Buscema version of this fan favourite tale might look like. And he did it twice!

Benito Gellago's illustrations of The Frost Giant's Daughter

[Thanks to Robert E. Howard, Charles D. Horning, Sam Moskowitz, Hans Stefan Santesson, Rowdy Delaney, Gorgon776 and many other fans]

Posted by Jesse Willis

The Music Of Erich Zann by H.P. Lovecraft

August 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

The Music Of Erich Zann is one of H.P. Lovecraft’s most popular short stories (it runs just 3,450 words).

The Music Of Erich Zann - illustration by Andrew Brosnatch

Here are the opening lines:

“I have examined maps of the city with the greatest care, yet have never again found the Rue d’Auseil. These maps have not been modern maps alone, for I know that names change. I have, on the contrary, delved deeply into all the antiquities of the place, and have personally explored every region, of whatever name, which could possibly answer to the street I knew as the Rue d’Auseil. But despite all I have done, it remains an humiliating fact that I cannot find the house, the street, or even the locality, where, during the last months of my impoverished life as a student of metaphysics at the university, I heard the music of Erich Zann.

That my memory is broken, I do not wonder; for my health, physical and mental, was gravely disturbed throughout the period of my residence in the Rue d’Auseil, and I recall that I took none of my few acquaintances there. But that I cannot find the place again is both singular and perplexing; for it was within a half-hour’s walk of the university and was distinguished by peculiarities which could hardly be forgotten by any one who had been there. I have never met a person who has seen the Rue d’Auseil.

The Rue d’Auseil lay across a dark river bordered by precipitous brick blear-windowed warehouses and spanned by a ponderous bridge of dark stone. It was always shadowy along that river, as if the smoke of neighboring factories shut out the sun perpetually. The river was also odorous with evil stenches which I have never smelled elsewhere, and which may some day help me to find it, since I should recognize them at once. Beyond the bridge were narrow cobbled streets with rails; and then came the ascent, at first gradual, but incredibly steep as the Rue d’Auseil was reached.”

And the Rue d’Auseil, by the way, translates to “street of the threshold” – most appropriate.

Public domain:

LibriVoxThe Music Of Erich Zann
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by Cameron Halket
1 |MP3| – Approx. 19 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: October 19, 2008
|ETEXT|
A student of philosophy is forced, by lack of funds, to to take lodgings in a run down rooming house in a strange part of Paris. First published in National Amateur (March 1922), then later in the May 1925 issue of Weird Tales.

Creative Commons:

PseudopodEpisode #100 – The Music Of Erich Zann
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by B.J. Harrison
1 |MP3| – Approx. 30 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Podcaster: Pseudopod
Podcast: July 25th, 2008

Commercial audiobook:

Horror Audiobooks - The Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft Volume 4 - The Rats In The Walls, The Shunned House, The Music Of Eric ZahnThe Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 4: The Rats In The Walls, The Shunned House, The Music Of Eric Zann
By H.P. Lovecraft; Read by Wayne June
3 CDs – 2 Hours 41 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audio Realms
Published: 2006
ISBN: 1897304242
|READ OUR REVIEW|

Discussion:

H.P. Lovecraft Literary PodcastEpisode #23 – The Music Of Erich Zann
Participants Chris Lackey, Chad Fifer and Andrew Leman
1 |MP3| – Approx. 29 Minutes [DISCUSSION]
Podcaster: H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast
Podcast: September 12, 2010

Other:

The Music Of Erich Zann

There is a very good comics adaptation, by writer Roy Thomas and artist Johnny Craig, done for issue #5 (June 1970) of Marvel Comics’ Chamber Of Darkness (the title was changed to The Music From Beyond).

Here’s a disturbingly wordless stop motion animation adaptation:

Posted by Jesse Willis

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