You Wanted Conan

And The Legend Chuck Dixon gave you Conan. The real Conan, the barbarian Conan, the Cimmerian Conan, the public domain Conan, the Conan about whom Robert E. Howard wrote, not the latter-day copyrighted Conan created by L. Sprague de Camp Conan, about whom one critic wrote: “L. Sprague de Camp is an insufferable hack and his choices both in writing his own criticism and curating this collection are baffling”, and most definitely not the Hollywood Conan.

Now you have multiple options to get your hands on Chuck Dixon’s Conan, but keep in mind that only the Arkhaven store will provide you the ebook along with the paperback edition. We’ll be placing our order for shipment to the fulfillment center tomorrow, so this is a good time to take action if you’re interested.

Bounding Into Comics interviewed The Legend about his latest novel.

Speaking with Bounding Into Comics, Dixon explained why he wanted to write this story, “I wanted to write a straight up war story of Conan’s time as a mercenary. But I also wanted to throw in a Lovecraftian monster as well as a depiction of dark sorcery in the Hyperborean Age with all its dire consequences.”

Dixon also relished the challenge to write in what he describes as Howard’s bravura style, “I was totally immersed in Howard’s bravura writing style as an adolescent. I liked the challenge of creating a new Conan story written in that style.”

He added, “So much of Howard’s prose relied on the reader to create vivid images in their own imaginations as they read. I really wanted to see if I could inspire that same brand of wild visuals.”

Meanwhile, the Dark Herald reviewed THE SIEGE OF THE BLACK CITADEL at Arkhaven.

During the 1980s, Baen Books decided to do the world a massive favor and publish a huge library of Robert Howard stories in their original un-De Camped form. I was struck by the unexpected quality of Howard’s work. I’d heard a lot of criticism of Howard’s original stories by De Camp, Stephen King, and several others. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. It had nothing at all to do with Howard’s prose and everything to do with politics. Although in King’s case, it could have been opinions generated by the mountains of coke he was snorting back then.

Howard was more than capable of subtly and subtext; his Conan was a complex hero. While taciturn and stoic, he would never leave a helpless innocent to the hands of those who found joy in cruelty.

Robert Howard had a great respect and indeed love for ancient history. He wanted to tell stories set in remote antiquity, but he also wanted them to be accurate to period. This presented him with a fundamental problem. In his hometown of Cross Plains, the resources of the Texas oil boom town’s library were it and they were obviously insufficient for his needs. So, he did the next best thing and created a completely fictional world from whole cloth. One that was a reflection of the ancient world but was not constrained by it. In so doing, Robert Howard invented an entire genre called Sword and Sorcery by Fritz Lieber.

Think about that for a second, this pulp writer in a small Texas boon town created an entirely new category of fiction and he’s been despised by all right-thinking people for it ever since.

Who in this modern world could hope to do justice to the works of a man born at the turn of the last century that venerated the purity and strength of the barbarous?

The Legend Chuck Dixon, that’s who.

The Legend has already completed the second book, THE CARAVAN OF THE DAMNED, and is now working on a third. Both of these books will be illustrated by Ademir Leal, the cover artist for THE SIEGE OF THE BLACK CITADEL.


You Had One Job

And you didn’t do it. Ursule K. Le Guin’s son and literary executor explains why he is revising her work in order to bring it more in line with modern social justice sensibilities:

My job is to bring my mother’s work to new generations of readers, not to revise it. People who adore a book are often eager to transform it, through screen adaptation, fan fiction or critical reinterpretation. Sometimes this works well; often it doesn’t. I tend to start from the position that Ursula’s words are sacred, so my initial reaction to the editor’s request was that of a strict constructivist.

After deep breaths, and with Ursula’s own revisionism in mind, I contacted a disability rights attorney, a youth literature consultant, a racial educator, and some kids. My advisory group leaned toward change but was not in consensus. I genuinely didn’t know what my mother would have decided. But she left me a clue: a note over her desk asking, “Is it true? Is it necessary or at least useful? Is it compassionate or at least unharmful?”

I like to think that truth and compassion are immutable even as the language we use to express them changes. But cultural constructs of harm are mutable; we frequently revise our definition of what’s harmful to whom, how it is spoken of, and who gets to do the speaking. My mother’s note tipped me toward changing her words. I found substitutes that would retain the original meaning and cadence, and stipulated to the publisher that the new editions would note that the text had been revised.

Criticism of changes to Dahl’s books can just as well be leveled at my own decision. Closest to my anxiety is the reaction of Susanne Nossel, of PEN America, who counsels us to “consider how the power to rewrite books might be used in the hands of those who do not share their values and sensibilities.” Although this haunts me, people who don’t share my sensibilities about artistic freedom seem to prefer to ban or burn books, usually without having read them.

In other words, literature must be defaced in order to make it acceptable to the lowest-common denominator, thereby turning books, which preserve human knowledge, into a form of ephemeral entertainment akin to television.

We really do need to see about getting that Castalia History subscription going before it’s too late.

This is why successful authors are well-advised to formally place their work into the public domain rather than trust their children, and especially, their grandchildren, to be faithful to their work and to protect their historical words. With the exception of a few loyal souls like Christopher Tolkien, most literary heirs are far more concerned with how their predecessor’s works are perceived by their friends and acquaintances than they are with doing their one job of preserving the family literary legacy.

I’ve personally witnessed this myself, where the literary heirs would rather see their predecessor’s work continue vanishing unread into history than risk embarrassing them with a revival of its historical appeal.

This is another reason why current copyright law is downright evil; it tends to destroy an author’s legacy rather than preserve it. Life of the author is a sufficient period for copyright, with an additional 10-year period to benefit the heirs and provide a foundation for providing a literary legacy for those heirs genuinely interested in doing so.

And it is, of course, amusing that he attempts to justify his decision to modify his mother’s works by appealing to the belief that others won’t take similar liberties. But once one accepts the principle that texts can be deemed unacceptable to the public in their original state, one has already justified their burning. And it’s just a matter of time before someone who doesn’t approve of that work for one reason or another comes to power.


Overwhelmed by AI

Live by the sword, die by the sword. Clarkesworld science fiction magazine is forced to close to submissions by a flood of ChatGTP entries.

Submissions are currently closed. It shouldn’t be hard to guess why.

  1. We aren’t closing the magazine. Closing submissions means that we aren’t considering stories from authors at this time. We will reopen, but have not set a date.
  2. We don’t have a solution for the problem. We have some ideas for minimizing it, but the problem isn’t going away. Detectors are unreliable. Pay-to-submit sacrifices too many legit authors. Print submissions are not viable for us.
  3. Various third-party tools for identity confirmation are more expensive than magazines can afford and tend to have regional holes. Adopting them would be the same as banning entire countries.
  4. We could easily implement a system that only allowed authors that had previously submitted work to us. That would effectively ban new authors, which is not acceptable. They are an essential part of this ecosystem and our future.
  5. The people causing the problem are from outside the SF/F community. Largely driven in by “side hustle” experts making claims of easy money with ChatGPT. They are driving this and deserve some of the disdain shown to the AI developers.
  6. Our guidelines already state that we don’t want “AI” written or assisted works. They don’t care. A checkbox on a form won’t stop them. They just lie.

I don’t know why this strikes me as particularly funny, but it does. Especially because it won’t be long before SFWA has its first fake member, given the way the most successful clout-chasing con artists think. Wracking up three professional publications wouldn’t be hard, and I don’t think the ever-so-inclusive organization has any specific requirement that its members be human or actually exist.

It has to be admitted. For all its evil and awfulness, Clown World can be amusing sometimes.


Write More in the Book

This is a great article about Joe Montana that is more about aging, accomplishment, and legacy than it is about football.

“Every player in history wants to write more in the book,” Young says. “I think about that all the time.”

His voice gets softer.

“No matter how much you write,” he says, “you want to write more.”

“The day you retire you fall of a cliff,” he says. “You land in a big pile of nothing. It’s a wreck. But it’s more of a wreck for people who have the biggest book.”

It’s one thing to understand that there is always going to be someone bigger, smarter, faster, richer, more attractive, or more successful. One of my psychological advantages over the course of my life is that I always understood that and was entirely comfortable with it. I’ve never been the best at anything I’ve done; even on the various occasions that I was a champion my accomplishments were overshadowed by the previous champion or by my teammates.

My best friend is smarter. My brothers are better-looking. My bandmate is far more talented and has a much better voice. I wasn’t even the MVP of the conference-winning team for which I was the leading scorer and scored in every game. So be it. Things are precisely what they are, and all any of us can do is the best that we can. Comparisons with others are not only futile, they are irrelevant, because life outside the ring, the track, or the field is not a competition.

But the one desire that everyone who is successful shares is to write more in the record book. Throw one more touchdown pass. Score one more goal. Write one more book.

Unlike Joe Montana and Tom Brady, I can still do what I do. I’ve got about 15 more years to be at the top of my writing game. If I’m very fortunate, 25 more years. Hence my annual writing goal of 365,000 words per year, which as of yesterday was running at 121.5 percent of goal.


The Five Reasons for Failed Fantasy

The Dark Herald reviews the year in fantasy for 2022 and provides an explanation for why it was so disastrous.

First, everyone wanted their own Game of Thrones, (it wasn’t just Jeff Bezos).

Second, none of these producers knew anything about fantasy and they didn’t want to learn. They just wanted to glom on to something and tell their own version of THE MESSAGE.

Third, neither did the people who ran the studios. They were green-lighting anything that could be accused of being a fantasy franchise with an existing fanbase. And they also wanted to use it to spread THE MESSAGE.

Fourth, Woke. All of these shows were much more interested in contemporary politics than they were ancient worlds, eerie wonders, and glories beyond imagining. They cared more about scoring points in Hollywood than they ever could about fantasy.

Fifth, all of these shows were the result of globalism. Oh, it was Hollywood globalism to be sure, so on top of all of their other failings, they were shallow as a mud puddle. But it was all globalist fantasy. It was something too hopelessly bland to be at all interesting.

“The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own. I don’t think it gave life to the orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them; and if they are to live at all, they have to live like other living creatures.”

I can’t help but find it amusing that all of these producers are casting desperately around for the next A GAME OF THRONES and it will never, ever, occur to them to go to the one epic fantasy series that is fully capable of providing them what they are looking for and more.

But it’s just as well. I have zero desire to see ARTS OF DARK AND LIGHT utterly demolished the way that everything from WHEEL OF TIME to SANDMAN have been destroyed.


Tolstoy on Maupassant

I’m always fascinated by one great mind’s take on another, which is one reason why I chose Machiavelli’s Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy for the Library subscription over his more famous works. So, this review of the work of one of my favorite writers – Guy de Maupassant – by another of my favorite writers – Leo Tolstoy – is of particular interest to me.

The author was endowed with that particular gift, called talent, which consists in the author’s ability to direct, according to his tastes, his intensified, strained attention to this or that subject, in consequence of which the author who is endowed with this ability sees in those subjects upon which he directs his attention, something new, something which others did not see. Maupassant evidently possessed that gift of seeing in subjects something which others did not see. But, to judge from the small volume which I had read, he was devoid of the chief condition necessary, besides talent, for a truly artistic production.

Of the three conditions:

1) a correct, that is, a moral relation of the author to the subject,
2) the clearness of exposition, or the beauty of form, which is the same, and
3) sincerity, that is, an undisguised feeling of love or hatred for what the artist describes

Maupassant possessed only the last two, and was entirely devoid of the first. He had no correct, that is, no moral relation to the subjects described. From what I had read, I was convinced that Maupassant possessed talent, that is, the gift of attention, which in the objects and phenomena of life revealed to him those qualities which are not visible to other men; he also possessed a beautiful form, that is, he expressed clearly, simply, and beautifully what he wished to say, and also possessed that condition of the worth of an artistic production, without which it does not produce any effect, — sincerity, — that is, he did not simulate love or hatred, but actually loved and hated what he described. But unfortunately, being devoid of the first, almost the most important condition of the worth of an artistic production, of the correct, moral relation to what he represented, that is, of the knowledge of the difference between good and evil, he loved and represented what it was not right to love and represent, and did not love and did not represent what he ought to have loved and represented. Thus the author in this little volume describes with much detail and love how women tempt men and men tempt women, and even some incomprehensible obscenities, which are represented in La Femme de Paul, and he describes the labouring country people, not only with indifference, but even with contempt, as so many animals.

Particularly striking was that lack of distinction between bad and good in the story Une Partie de Campagne, in which, in the form of a most clever and amusing jest, he gives a detailed account of how two gentlemen with bared arms, rowing in a boat, simultaneously tempted, the one an old mother, and the other a young maiden, her daughter.

The author’s sympathy is during the whole time obviously to such an extent on the side of the two rascals, that he ignores, or, rather, does not see what the tempted mother, the girl, the father, and the young man, evidently the fiance of the daughter, must have suffered, and so we not only get a shocking description of a disgusting crime in the form of an amusing jest, but the event itself is described falsely, because only the most insignificant side of the subject, the pleasure afforded to the rascals, is described.

In the same volume there is a story, Histoire d’une Fille de Ferme, which Turgenev recommended to me more particularly, and which more particularly displeased me on account of the author’s incorrect relation to the subject. The author apparently sees in all the working people whom he describes nothing but animals, who do not rise above sexual and maternal love, and so the description leaves us with an incomplete, artificial impression.

The insufficient comprehension of the lives and interests of the working classes, and the representation of the men from those classes in the form of half-animals, which are moved only by sensuality, malice, and greed, forms one of the chief and most important defects of the majority of the modern French authors, among them Maupassant, not only in this story, but also in all the other stories, in which he touches on the people and always describes them as coarse, dull animals, whom one can only ridicule. Of course, the French authors must know the conditions of their people better than I know them; but, although I am a Russian and have not lived with the French people, I none the less assert that, in describing their masses, the French authors are wrong, and that the French masses cannot be as they are described. If there exists a France as we know it, with her truly great men and with those great contributions which these great men have made to science, art, civil polity, and the moral perfection of humanity, those labouring masses, which have held upon their shoulders this France and her great men, do not consist of animals, but of men with great spiritual qualities; and so I do not believe what I am told in novels like La Terre, and in Maupassant’s stories, just as I should not believe if I were told of the existence of a beautiful house standing on no foundation. It is very possible that the high qualities of the masses are not such as are described in La petit Fadette and in La Mare au Diable, but these qualities exist, that I know for certain, and the writer who describes the masses, as Maupassant does, by telling sympathetically of the “hanches” and “gorges” of Breton domestics, and with contempt and ridicule the life of the labouring people, commits a great error in an artistic sense, because he describes the subject from only one, the most uninteresting, physical side, and completely overlooks the other, the most important, spiritual side, which forms the essence of the subject.


It’s interesting to see that Tolstoy criticizes Maupassant for precisely the same failing exhibited by even the most skilled authors of literature, fantasy, and science fiction today. The absence of a spiritual awareness on the part of the author intrinsically limits their works, and leaves them painting with a palette devoid of true colors, as if they were photographers who possess only monochromatic film.


Abandoning the Indefensible

Even the corpocratic media has reluctantly thrown in the towel on Dem Rangz despite being more than willing to accept the sadistic defacing of Tolkien’s legacy, to endorse the rampant blackwashing, and to osculate the Bezosian backside:

I’ve come to a sad realization: The creators of Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power know how to create spectacle, but they don’t know how to tell a good story.

There it is, scrawled in blood on the wall. The writers and showrunners responsible for this show could have won me over with good fan-fiction. They could have tossed Tolkien’s lore onto a bonfire and I’d have been perfectly happy if they’d simply crafted an enjoyable story with characters I care about.

Unfortunately, The Rings Of Power is written so poorly it defies even my worst fears. Oh yes, I was awed and impressed by the opening two episodes just like many others. But my how quickly a badly written TV series can wear out its welcome once the shimmer fades….

Galadriel’s adventure in Númenor is honestly just embarrassing. She arrived there—after being rescued—and effectively just bullied everyone in her path like the elven version of a steamroller. The queen regent has her hands full from the moment Galadriel barges through the door, and soon she’s demanding to see the king, then asking for an army.

Miriel has to lock her up and then pack her off back to the elves just to get her to stop. Then—thanks to petals falling from a tree*—she decides to take her back and commit her people—who moments earlier were all but chanting “death to the elves!”—to a war in a strange land? Everything taking place in Númenor is just a shortcut for the plot. Move the plot forward at all costs no matter how many characters are butchered in the process. (I wrote about the hilariously bad Black Speech spy note recently which is another great example of the shoddy writing in this show)>

Instead of actual character drama, the creators of Rings Of Power simply make everyone bicker and argue with one another all the time. Whether that’s Isildur and his father and friends, Elrond and Durin, Nori and the village elders, Bronwyn and the village idiots, or Galadriel and, well, everybody—all anyone seems to do is argue.

The people Galadriel wants to go save are evil and stupid and some of them seem ready to throw in with Sauron at the drop of a pin. But for some reason we’re supposed to care about Galadriel’s quest to go fight to save them from the Enemy?

As an aside, here’s a thought for those producing future films and television series: if casting a cute blonde with a mild case of resting bitch face in the place of an ethereal blonde beauty is enough to functionally derail an A+++ production, imagine how much you are lowering the odds of your own little project being successful if you submit to the creative death by diversity that the Hellmouth is presently demanding?

It’s never a good sign when the most entertaining thing about a production is the commentary on its ongoing immolation.

Anyhow, back to A SEA OF SKULLS. Lodi is discovering he’s got a new task at hand, and he’s not very happy about it….


BIC Digs Deeper

Bounding Into Comics contemplates whether my explanation of the reason the mainstream media is attacking Tolkien in the aftermath of the catastrophic debacle of the Amazon subversion is well-founded in light of the original Tolkien texts.

Arkhaven Comics publisher Vox Day recently explained why he believes numerous media outlets, so-called Tolkien academics, Tolkien influencers, and others are attacking J.R.R. Tolkien. There are numerous pieces of evidence of media outlets, so-called Tolkien academics, and others attacking J.R.R. Tolkien. Most recently, Deakin University Lecturer Helen Young accused Tolkien of racism, anti-Semitism, and orientalism in The Conversation.

“Fascinating, is it not, that a high fantasy writer could foresee today’s transhuman global technocrats in the 1940s? It’s because their goals are no different than they were back before the dawn of recorded human history: to be like God.”

Indeed Tolkien saw that evil because he also wrote in The Silmarillion, “Sauron with many arguments gainsaid all that the Valar had taught; and he bade men think that in the world, in the east and even in the west, there lay yet many seas and many lands for their winning, wherein was wealth uncounted. And still, if they should at the last come to the end of those lands and seas, beyond all lay the Ancient Darkness. ‘And out of it the world was made. For Darkness alone is worshipful, and the Lord thereof may yet make other worlds to be gifts to those that serve him, so that the increase of their power shall find no end.’”

He continued, “And Ar-Pharazôn said: ‘Who is the Lord of the Darkness?’ Then behind locked doors Sauron spoke to the King, and he lied, saying: ‘It is he whose name is not now spoken; for the Valar have deceived you concerning him, putting forward the name of Eru, a phantom devised in the folly of their hearts, seeking to enchain Men in servitude to themselves. For they are the oracle of this Eru, which speaks only what they will. But he that is their master shall yet prevail, and he will deliver you from this phantom; and his name is Melkor, Lord of All, Giver of Freedom, and he shall make you stronger than they.’”

The reason Tolkien is being subverted and attacked today is because he clearly saw the nature of evil and its objectives, which have not changed since men began building the Tower of Babel. The entire course of human history is one of repetitive waves of would-be immortals desparing at the Law of Nature, rebelling against their Creator, and sacrificing massive quantities of innocent mortals to evil supernatural beings in inevitably futile attempts to transform themselves into gods and thereby escape death.

Everything evil that is not driven by hedonism, greed, and attention-seeking is driven by fear of death. And the more one satiated one is of the first three, the more completely one succumbs to the fourth. Tolkien knew this, he wrote about this, and that is why the evil would-be immortals of today want him to be forgotten.


The Original Mary Sue

The 1973 Star Trek fan fiction by Paula Smith that introduced the now-inescapable Hellmouth trope, most notoriously exhibited by Not-Galadrial in Dem Rangz o’ Powah.

A Trekkie’s Tale
“Gee, golly, gosh, gloriosky,” thought Mary Sue as she stepped on the bridge of the Enterprise. “Here I am, the youngest lieutenant in the fleet – only fifteen and a half years old.” Captain Kirk came up to her.

“Oh, Lieutenant, I love you madly. Will you come to bed with me?”

“Captain! I am not that kind of girl!”

“You’re right, and I respect you for it. Here, take over the ship for a minute while I go get some coffee for us.”

Mr. Spock came onto the bridge. “What are you doing in the command seat, Lieutenant?”

“The Captain told me to.”

“Flawlessly logical. I admire your mind.”

Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and Mr. Scott beamed down with Lt. Mary Sue to Rigel XXXVII. They were attacked by green androids and thrown into prison. In a moment of weakness Lt. Mary Sue revealed to Mr. Spock that she too was half Vulcan. Recovering quickly, she sprung the lock with her hairpin and they all got away back to the ship.

But back on board, Dr. McCoy and Lt. Mary Sue found out that the men who had beamed down were seriously stricken by the jumping cold robbies, Mary Sue less so. While the four officers languished in Sick Bay, Lt. Mary Sue ran the ship, and ran it so well she received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Vulcan Order of Gallantry and the Tralfamadorian Order of Good Guyhood.

However the disease finally got to her and she fell fatally ill. In the Sick Bay as she breathed her last, she was surrounded by Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Scott, all weeping unashamedly at the loss of her beautiful youth and youthful beauty, intelligence, capability and all around niceness. Even to this day her birthday is a national holiday of the Enterprise.

Ironically, the original Mary Sue is a more developed character than most despite the short length of the piece; at least she has a moment of weakness. Sadly, she lacks purple eyes; that was a later development. As was a particular facility for sexual performance, that, too, was a later development.


Knowing When to Walk Away

The Forge and Anvil is closing down:

I strongly feel I have to turn away from the religio-political non-fiction writing I’ve been doing for more than a decade. I greatly admire people like Razorfist or Jon Del Arroz, who’ve managed to both work in the creative sphere, but simultaneously provide commentary on the issues. Yet again, I simply do not have the time to do all that. Writing is not my job. And I have a family I’m taking care of.

I very much desire to focus all of my creative talent on the Bovodar stories. (Notice how you still haven’t seen the sequel to Bovodar and the Bears? It’s because I’ve been doing Forge and Anvil. Episode 1 of a two-part sequel is complete, though unedited. It’s called “Bovodar and the Dragons.”) I listen to podcasts about properties like Lord of the Rings or Babylon 5, I watch Deep Space 9 reviews by Razorfist, or I’ll watch something about the Farscape saga, and I say to myself: “I should be doing that. Why am I so behind?”

At this point in my life, I was supposed to have a symphony of books out there. A trilogy of Hobbit-styled books, some adult novels expanding upon my created universe, a “Silmarillion” that described the ancient genesis of the world I’ve been building. Perhaps have a videogame by now. Comics. A cartoon or two? Etc. But I don’t. I’m like George R.R. Martin, who stubbornly refuses to finish A Song of Ice and Fire. I’ve got an entire “Dune trilogy” in my mind that no one but me knows about. And it’s not put out there because I’ve only one life, and I’m only one man. Bilocation is not something I can do.

So I will turn back to what started this whole journey. The fiction. The very fiction I set out to do from the outset. The non-fiction was an interruption and a tangent, but the fiction will have to resume.

I think he’s doing the right thing, and probably at the right time too. Always know when to walk away. I stopped writing syndicated game reviews after seven years, stopped writing political columns after 12 years, and walked away from recording and publishing contracts after two albums. In each case, it was the right decision to do so and I’ve never regretted it.

Even though I walked away from Alpha Game at precisely the moment that the SSH was beginning to break out into the mainstream, it was the right time to shut it down there. I’d explored the subject to the depths of my interest and it was best to leave it to others to delve into the various ancillary elements and applications that interested them.

Don’t ever phone it in. Once you get to the point that you’re just phoning it in, it’s imperative to find something else on which you can focus more enthusiastically.