VIKING SHIP: The Robert E. Howard VEHICLE OF THE WEEK

Viking ship

The last time I covered a Robert E. Howard vehicle, if you recall, it was in the form of the Model T Ford, a.k.a. the flivver. Got a whole series of posts out of that one, if you want to track them down.

Of course, flivvers don’t come up much in Howard’s writing — but Viking ships, now that’s another mode of transportation altogether!

My favorite of Howard’s many uses of the deadly dragon ships is now — and has always been — the white-hot opening to “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth”:

Lightning dazzled the eyes of Turlogh O’Brien and his foot slipped in a smear of blood as he staggered on the reeling deck. The clashing of steel rivaled the bellowing of the thunder, and screams of death cut through the roar of waves and wind. The incessant lightning flicker gleamed on the corpses sprawling redly, the gigantic horned figures that roared and smote like huge demons of the midnight storm, the great beaked prow looming above.

Damn. Now that, my friends, is a Howardian boat ride!

I was reminded of those far-faring ocean and river-roving vessels yesterday by Brian Leno. Leno was moping about the web, doing routine glances over the handful of specialty sites devoted to the Texas writer. He came to a new post on the Todd Vick site, which catalogs a lot of ships — Vick is a prof or a teacher, apparently, and seems to talk a lot about how his site is academically credible, things sourced, and maybe even some footnotes. I never read the posts there, because if not outright boring, they tend to be much too tedious for my tastes.

But I had to read that one, because Leno was certain it lifted material uncredited from various sources.

And so much for academic credibility.

Unless they’ve changed the rules in teaching, plagiarism has always been a big bugaboo. Yet, here was Vick proudly showcasing a raft of direct quotes with no quote marks, no links to the sites where they were lifted from — or, imagine me quoting the opening to “Bal-Sagoth” as above and pretending I wrote it.

And it is so easy to avoid such theft — just change the sentences around, to show you’ve absorbed the info. If you’re using direct quotes, toss in some quote marks. Put in a hyperlink to where you found the info you’re ripping off.

Not that hard, unless you’re terribly lazy.

Anyway, Leno was looking it over and thought, No way was the blurb on Viking ships written by the byline on the post. He sat down and in ten minutes found the site the description came from — the Vick site doesn’t use every word from the Viking site, but every word they do use is taken from there, with no acknowledgement.

I won’t do the whole thing, but on Vick you will find:

In general, the Norse raided only those locations to which they could sail. Overland marches were avoided. In addition, the shallow draft made for fast and easy disembarkation during a raid. When the ship was beached, a Viking could be certain that if he jumped out near the stem, the water would scarcely be over his knees. The crew could leave the ship and join the raid quickly and confidently.

On Hurstwic.org under a more extensive survey of Viking ships (well worth reading), you’ll find:

In general, the Norse raided only those locations to which they could sail. Overland marches were avoided. . . . In addition, the shallow draft made for fast and easy disembarkation during a raid. When the ship was beached, a Viking could be certain that if he jumped out near the stem, the water would scarcely be over his knees. The crew could leave the ship and join the raid quickly and confidently.

Wow. Some genuine déjà vu going down, don’t you think?

And of course the other descriptions of other ships are lifted — without credit — from other sites.

I have to presume Vick does no vetting whatsoever of the material he tosses on his site — hey, it’s the net, who cares, right?

Does he only have one or two bad apples who have no idea how to do scholarship and cite sources — or is he hosting a den of thieves, stealing intellectual property like the Vikings looted Lindisfarne?

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