Rediscovered: Klarkash-Ton and Brian McNaughton

Kevin Cook, pulp and book collector, recently retired from the New York City scene to a new home in the South. Over the garage he’s had built a library to display the old collection, the first time in his adult life he’s ever managed to place every single book, pulp, and fanzine sitting visible on the shelf (shades of John D. Squires with his excellent library housed atop his garage).

Certain items that have been boxed up for decades are now reappearing. In this instance, Kevin located his copies of the fanzine Amra v1,n1 for April 1956 (a two pager), plus a couple of issues of the Hyborian Legion Bulletin. He figured I’d want to see them, because of my long-standing interest in the fandom circulating around pulp fictioneer Robert E. Howard. And he was right.

One tidbit Kevin pointed out is that in the first issue of Amra the name of the overall fan club was rendered as “Hyborean Legion.” Someone must have pointed out that REH spelled it differently in his classic essay on the background of the Conan stories, “The Hyborian Age.”

In the 1970s more or less the same kerfuffle would happen when I started up an amateur press association I named The Hyperborian League — intended to cover both REH and Clark Ashton Smith, and related topics. Various people jumped in to point out that it ought to have been spelled, correctly, as Hyperborean League.

But. . .but. . . I muttered in my defense, it’s about REH and CAS, hence the mashup spelling. I think a few of them believed me.

Kevin was also excited by Bulletin #6 for October 1957, which gave the names and addresses of the entire roster of the Legion. With my age and background in this arena, I know most of the names, but today few would jump out at you. Robert Bloch Box 362 Wayauwega, Wis. (on the brink of writing Psycho, 1959). Fritz Leiber 5447 Ridgewood Ct. Chicago , Ill. (editing for Science Digest, battling alcoholism, and — inspired by the Legion — about to revive his Sword-and-Sorcery series featuring Fafhrd and Gray Mouser).

Kevin was especially surprised to see Clark Ashton Smith (117 Ninth St. Pacific Grove, Calif.) on the list. Generally, traditionally, we haven’t thought of CAS as a member of that fandom, but of course he was — he lived until 1961.

The name that took me most by surprise was Brian J. McNaughton (183 Mechanic Street, Red Bank, N.J.) — to know that CAS and McNaughton would have been in the same fandom, addresses public, capable of some easy exchanges of letters. I’d imagine the letters, if any sailed through the post, would have been fan mail from the 22-year-old McNaughton to the veteran of Weird Tales.

McNaughton bears the distinction of later writing the finest set of stories ever in the CAS mold, inspired by the Klarkash-Ton cycles set in such fantastic realms as Hyperborea and Zothique. The collection The Throne of Bones won the World Fantasy Award as best of the year, and I couldn’t agree more. In his fantastic realm McNaughton turns the action over to ghouls, and — but enough.

I think I know which book I’ll be rereading for Hallowe’en this year.

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