By Don Herron
You’d think posing for a picture for the Awards Issue would be easy, and it probably would be if I weren’t interested in totems and symbolic icons and the like. Really easy would have been me with a first edition copy of The Dark Barbarian in my right hand and a copy of The Barbaric Triumph in my left, maybe standing in front of some kind of rock wall to simulate a ruin looted in a past life. I know a few places that would be good for that sort of thing, one of the local wineries, or — archly symbolic — a drive up to Glen Ellen where I lived for a decade for a hike over to the monumental ruins of Jack London’s Wolf House. Yeah, those two books and a hint of the ultimate fall of civilization would be apt, and easy enough.
While I wouldn’t argue that the two anthologies are my big contributions, with The Dark Barbarian doing more than anything else you could name in that era to change the perception that Howard was just some super-charged pulp hack, the idea still is life achievement in the field. I began thinking that I could haul out all the Howardian publications to a table on the patio, stack them up, prop the better items so the covers are visible. . . . One of my career highlights, after all, was standing up to de Camp in the letters column of Two-Gun Raconteur no. 4. Getting Howard the feature article in Firsts wasn’t bad, either — Leo tells me that the only reason the bookseller in South Africa knew enough to pull that copy of the Jenkins A Gent from Bear Creek out of the “dust bin” that was slated to go to the dump the next day was because he’d read that write-up, and recognized treasure where others saw trash. That’s the copy visitors to the Howard House see on display. I did the cornerstone essay for first issue of The Dark Man, as well, and the short piece concerning “Howardian Fairyland” that appears in the second issue often gets cited as the most penetrating critical observation I have made, among the many. And of course I have left a paw print or two on the pages of The Cimmerian, so the photo would need a tower of back issues looming like some jet-hued doom.
For that shot of all my Howardian stuff, I’d stack up the thirteen mailings of The Hyperborian League, and I guess I would have to make up a pile of the REHupa mailings I appeared in. You might say I have a Love-Hate relationship with REHupa, though it would be more accurate to describe it as an I Like REHupa Okay in Theory But Most of the Contributors Bore Me to Tears attitude. After quitting with mailing sixteen I came back in time to be on the scene for mailing 100, and recently returned to the fray for mailing 200. If REHupa and I are both around for mailing 300, hey, I’ll do my best to be on hand for it.
And I’d need to find a cool position in the display for a copy of the Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural from 1986, to which I contributed the entry on Howard — unless someone can prove otherwise, the first encyclopedia entry that treated Howard with respect. And the 2005 encyclopedia where I — but then it hit me. Doing that kind of photo wouldn’t be easy. And I like easy.
So I made a quick decision and cleared excess items, such as my collection of R. J. Mischo CDs, off the three and a half shelves that hold the various books I have written, edited or appeared in — all in chronological order, of course. Once the shelves looked a lot neater than normal, I placed the three Cimmerian Awards, and I was ready for the camera.