Nominations for the 2023 Hugo Awards closed April 30 and the finalists are expected to be announced later this month.
However, after the Hugos is before the next Hugos, so I’m continuing my Non-Fiction Spotlight project, where I interview the authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books that come out in 2023 and are eligible for the 2024 Hugo Awards. For more about the Non-Fiction Spotlight project, go here. To check out the spotlights I already posted, go here.
For more recommendations for SFF-related non-fiction, also check out this Facebook group set up by the always excellent Farah Mendlesohn, who is a champion (and author) of SFF-related non-fiction.
Today’s non-fiction spotlight is a collection of essays focussed on one of the most recognisable and influential characters of our genre, namely Robert E. Howard’s Conan. Have you ever found yourself arguing which Conan story is best or wondered whether someone else out there also loves that lesser known Conan story you love? Then Hither Came Conan, edited by Bob Byrne, Bill Ward, Howard Andrew Jones and Jason M. Waltz, is the book for you.
Therefore, I am thrilled to welcome Jason M. Waltz, one of the editors of Hither Came Conan, to my blog today:
Tell us about your book.
HITHER CAME CONAN is a compilation of two successful examinations of all of Robert E. Howard’s original Conan the Cimmerian stories (and one story fragment) with about 15 additional essays included. It is also the single most-inclusive repository of REH Conan story data to date. This alone makes this title invaluable; coupled with the almost 60 essays it makes this THE BOOK to shelve alongside your Wandering Star/DelRey Conan trilogy. The majority of essays (and opinions!) come from the Bob Byrne led ‘Hither Came Conan’ series hosted by Black Gate Magazine and the ‘Conan Re-Read’ of Bill Ward and Howard Andrew Jones in conversation on Howard’s blog. Data compiled for each story by Dierk Günther includes tidbits such as the probable age of both Conan and Howard, the location, the major characters, the word count, date and source of first publication, and the first recorded public reaction to be found. HITHER CAME CONAN is a wealth of all the information any reader of Conan could desire.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a proponent of heroic literature: I read, write, edit, publish, collect, speak, and preserve it. I’m also just a fellow who happened to lend a hand one day back in 2005 when a few small press people solicited help. Things led to other things, and in 2008 I was suddenly the micro publisher Rogue Blades Entertainment, publisher of all that is heroic, specifically heroic fantasy. Several well-regarded (though never as many as intended) anthologies–such as RETURN OF THE SWORD, RAGE OF THE BEHEMOTH, CROSSBONES & CROSSES, REACH FOR THE SKY–and the popular non-fiction how-to WRITING FANTASY HEROES later, Rogue Blades Foundation was established specifically to take on larger scale projects and titles, such as the award-winning REH CHANGED MY LIFE you featured in 2022.
What prompted you to write/edit this book?
HITHER CAME CONAN was a natural fit for the mission of Rogue Blades Foundation: Exploring Heroics! As a not-for-profit literary publisher of heroics, RBF puts explorations of the heroic into your hands and hearts through books that are well-read and not just on your shelves. We put heroes into print. With the almost-always on-going conversation of what truly is Sword & Sorcery and its foundations, Robert E. Howard and Conan naturally come to the center of attention. Bob Byrne had led a series at BLACK GATE MAGAZINE online in 2019 wherein he had Howard Conan scholarly types (somehow I made the cut!) randomly defend each original Conan story as the ‘Best’ of the lot. That initiated a long, on-and-off again conversation about putting the series into print between he, I, and John O’Neill (of BLACK GATE). When Bob won a REH Foundation award for the series, conversations heated and we came up with the idea of including the Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward re-read discussion Howard had hosted on his blog back in 2015 during which they closely examined each Howard Conan tale. Once Howard and Bill agreed, the train had a head of steam and was already powering down the tracks. I am a gent who enjoys adding special features to my books and as this book as it currently stood consisted of all previously released material, I worked out ways to add more value for the reader. I hit the jackpot when Dierk agreed to helm the research into each story and find those first public reactions. This then became the largest tome I have ever published and in addition, I believe it is beyond reasonable to claim it is THE Conan of Cimmeria reference title.
Why should SFF fans in general and Hugo voters in particular read this book?
HITHER CAME CONAN covers ALL 21 Robert E. Howard original tales plus 1 story fragment with at least 2 essays of examination, many extra essays as further examinations of stories or additional aspects of the Conan Saga, and the single most inclusive story database of information such as important characters, age of Conan and Howard, setting and synopsis, word count, and first publication and reaction, and comes wrapped in a gorgeous Didier Normand cover that embraces and conveys the spirit of homage. THIS is the book you shelve alongside your Wandering Star/Del Rey Conan trilogy!
Do you have any cool facts or tidbits that you unearthed during your research, but that did not make it into the final book?
Ha, no! That’s why it’s so huge and heavy! Seriously, I added just about everything. Dierk’s work on tracking down the first recorded public reaction to each story was phenomenal and super exhilirating. When I followed his lead and started reading all the letters in Weird Tales’ ‘The Eyrie’ I was hard pressed not to keep adding reactions. So that is about all that didn’t make it into the final version: EVERY public reaction we could find. I don’t think we could have lifted HCC if I had added them all. I did choose to add a closing Memorium section though, wherein I gathered all the public responses to Howard’s suicide and the then-end of Conan’s story.
SFF-related non-fiction is somewhat sidelined by the big genre awards, since the Nebulas have no non-fiction category and the Best Related Work Hugo category has become something of a grab bag of anything that doesn’t fit elsewhere. So why do you think SFF-related non-fiction is important?
Oh, we can learn so much through non-fiction examinations! HITHER CAME CONAN holds far more value than just talking about the character of Conan. This is actually a very good exploration of the writing of one of American’s most influential fantastical creators of all time! In-depth dicussions of writing styles, purposes, plots, world-building, character creation, market writing…other than perhaps writing habits, there really is no aspect of speculative, heroic writing left unturned. Anyone dreaming of, trying to write, anything action-packed could definitely improve their chances of delivering popular heroic adventure readers want by picking up this book. I will close by repeating what I said before: the analysis of creativity, of motivation, and of legacy should be a regular genre consideration.
Are there any other great SFF-related non-fiction works or indeed anything else (books, stories, essays, writers, magazines, films, TV shows, etc…) you’d like to recommend?
There is lots of work going on in the pulp and heroic fantastical non-fiction arena. Will Oliver is working on his own Robert E. Howard biography; there is a recent Clark Ashton Smith documentary worth viewing; Jason Ray Carney is the force behind numerous non-fiction and fiction projects, including his recent TED Talk on Sword & Sorcery; the Glenn Lord Symposium at the annual Howard Days in Cross Plains, Texas, always has scholarly presentations and readings. There is a lot to find out there if people are interested in seeking it out.
Where can people buy your book?
HITHER CAME CONAN is available on Amazon at dp/B0BZFJ4CHN – the US link https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BZFJ4CHN and German https://www.amazon.de/dp/B0BZFJ4CHN
Where can people find you?
Rogue Blades is found at https://rogue-blades.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/RogueBladesFoundation
Thank you, Jason, for stopping by and answering my questions. Check out Hither Came Conan, if you’re at all interested in Conan of the Cimmeria, Robert E. Howard and the history of sword and sorcery. And if you haven’t picked them up already, get those Del Rey Conan collections, too, because they are currently the best and most affordable way to experience Conan.
About Hither Came Conan:
HITHER CAME CONAN is a collection of essays examining each of the 21 original Conan stories plus 1 of the story fragments from the Father of Sword & Sorcery, Robert E. Howard!
This title collects Bob Byrne’s Award-winning series ‘Hither Came Conan’ hosted by John O’Neill at www.blackgate.com alongside the famous Bill Ward and Howard Andrew Jones ‘Conan Re-read’ discussion hosted by Howard at www.howardandrewjones.com. Numerous extra essays appear as further examinations of stories or additional aspects of the Conan Saga. Also includes the GREATEST EVER compilation of story data such as important characters, age of Conan and Howard, setting and synopsis, word count, and first publication and reaction! ALL WRAPPED in a gorgeous Didier Normand cover that embraces and conveys the spirit of homage.
Contributors include: Fred Adams, Jr., John Bullard, Bob Byrne, Jason Ray Carney, Vincent Darlage, Bobby Derie, Woelf Dietrich, Jason Durall, Gabe Dybing, Mark Finn, Dierk Günther, David Hardy, Ryan Harvey, John C. Hocking, Morgan Holmes, Matthew John, Howard Andrew Jones, Patrice Louinet, James C. McGlothlin, Brian Murphy, Scott Oden, James Reasoner, Deuce Richardson, Jeffrey Shanks, Steven H Silver, David C. Smith, S.M. Stirling, Keith J. Taylor, G.W. Thomas, Fletcher A. Vredenburgh, Jason M Waltz, Bill Ward, Clint Werner, and Keith West.
THE book you shelve alongside your Wandering Star/Del Rey Conan trilogy!
About Jason M. Waltz:
Are you publishing a work of SFF-related longform non-fiction in 2023 and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.
This looks great! Just ordered the hardcover!
Good interview, Cora!
Thank you. I’m glad you liked the interview. I think you’ll enjoy the book as well.
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