Sensor Sweep: A. Merritt, Dungeons & Dragons, Monster Manuals, and the Murder of Sword and Sorcery

Monday , 22, January 2018 10 Comments

Writers (On an Underwood No. 5): :Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian wandered into the pages of Weird Tales with “The Phoenix on the Sword” (Dec 1932), and was followed by “The Scarlet Citadel” (Jan 1933), “The Tower of the Elephant” (Mar), “Black Colossus” (Jun), “The Slithering Shadow” (Sep), “The Pool of the Black One” (Oct), “Rogues in the House” (Jan 1934), “Shadows in the Moonlight” (Apr), “Queen of the Black Coast” (May), “The Haunter of the Ring” (Jun), “The Devil in Iron” (Aug), and the serial “The People of the Black Circle” (Sep-Oct-Nov). Much of the response in “The Eyrie,” the letters-column of Weird Tales, was positive…but in the November 1934 issue there was a letter aimed at the popular series character.”

Comic Books ( “Today, Marvel Entertainment and Conan Properties International are excited to announce the iconic CONAN franchise will make its grand return to Marvel next year. With over 650 issues from 1970 to 2000, Marvel brought fans the adventures of Conan The Barbarian, Conan the Adventurer, Conan the Savage, and Savage Sword of Conan, among other popular titles.”

Board Games (Board Game Geek): “Australian publisher Grail Games has become a go-to publisher for designer Reiner Knizia. After releasing a new edition of Knizia’s classic press-your-luck game Circus Flohcati in 2016, Grail Games released a new version of MediciMedici: The Card Game, and King’s Road in 2017, and in 2018 Grail will release the roll-and-write game Criss Cross, a new edition of the long out-of-print Stephenson’s Rocket, and the just-announced Yellow & Yangtze, a sister game to Knizia’s best-ranked game of all time — Tigris & Euphrates.”

RPG (Kotaku): “Your bread-and-butter Dungeons & Dragons party won’t include a manticore, a gargoyle, a hyena or a sentient fungi, but maybe it should. One D&D player spent a year and a half converting every single creature in the D&D Monster Manual into playable characters, and now players can live out their dreams of being a great fire beetle who slays dragons.”

Writers (Go Local): “Everyone who writes about H.P. Lovecraft tries to reconcile the visionary pioneer of American horror fiction with the vicious racist. While he was following in the footsteps of Edgar Allen Poe as America’s preeminent writer of macabre, terrifying tales, Lovecraft was also cheering on Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and lamenting the massive Jewish conspiracy he believed secretly dominated American arts and culture. These were not distinct facets of his personality. Instead, the bigotry informed his fiction. Lovecraft’s stories constantly feature cosmic horrors served by grotesque creatures. Those creatures were drawn from his fear of interracial breeding, which he thought would produce deformed, brutish “mongrels” who would plunge humanity into constant chaos.”

RPG ( “One of the few truly great trends in 2017 was the return of tabletop role-playing. Dungeons & Dragons got a boost from Stranger Things, but TSR’s fantasy franchise isn’t the only game in town. Back in the glory days, there were dozens of other competing pen and paper RPGs for the true geek’s attention. If you didn’t want to swing a sword and cast a spell, you could travel to the far future, or the Old West, or dozens of other places and times.”

Writers (Pulp Archivist): “Frankly, it seems to me that the average pseudo-scientific tale (always excepting the really fine work of such men as Wandrei, over again, and to resent the slightest variation. I may be wrong, but this is the conclusion I have reached from reading the published letters of pseudo-scientific fans. All readers of the wood-pulps are more or less inclined that way (or I should say most, instead of all) but the p.s.f. seem unusually conventional. A queer paradox.”

Comic Books (Jeffro Johnson): “Okay, you’ve heard the refrain.

Guys like Ethan Van Sciver, Diversity & Comics, and Kasimir Urbanski all love to roast the more ludicrous efforts of the SJW’s within the comics scene. It makes for entertaining YouTube videos, that’s for sure. But Arkhaven comes onto the scene and suddenly they all want to run an angle on it claiming that these guys are just like the SJW’s except they’re just coming at from the opposite end of the political spectrum. Two sides of the same coin and all that.”

Writers (DMR Books): “Merritt is (along with Clark Ashton Smith) the favorite author of this blog’s Most Puissant and Fearsome Editor, Dave Ritzlin, and I rank Merritt pretty damned high myself. Thus, this day shall not go without remark and due respect will be rendered.

‘What’s up with the title?’ one might ask. Surely, A. Merritt can’t be called the “Lord of Fantasy”? Ah, but he once was–by multitudes. In my opinion, he still sits with other great ones at the High Table in the Halls of Fantasy. Just as Genghis Khan was once named the Master of Thrones and Crowns and died as such with sceptre in hand, so was Merritt hailed as the Lord of Fantasy for decades, toppled only after he was in his grave for more than two decades. Also like the Great Khan, Merritt left many (literary) descendants to carry on his legacy and remember his name.

Genres (Jim Fear): “So the good people over at Castalia House have put out a review of the new Gardner Dozois/George R. R. Martin anthology, The Book of Swords. You can read the autopsy of this shitpile here, but I’ll just let you know that it doesn’t look pretty. This is the same problem they had with their Old Venus anthology, which is that these people fundamentally do not understand the medium they’re working in. Either that, or they’re actively trying to kill it. They say you shouldn’t attribute to malice what could be attributed to ignorance and incompetence, but at this point I’m really starting to fucking wonder over here.”


  • Mark says:

    OT, but this was too good to pass up:

    “Feminist 40K” on Facebook has been pushing for the Warhammer 40,000 setting to be more “diverse” and all that, and “Arch Warhammer”, a friend of Sargon of Akkad, has been one of the key people pushing back against this.

    Now, the SJWs have been posting some more nonsense, and… well, just look at the screencap that Sargon & Arch Warhammer use in the first few minutes of this video:

    “Star Trek’s pursuit of space diversity pretty much set the stage for the Golden Age of science fiction.”

    Oh boy.

  • Bagger Vance says:

    Sigh! Dark Horse has been publishing voluminous collections of the Marvel series for some time now (it looks like they’re having a sale on them as we speak), and now I’m concerned that as ephemeral digital purchases I might lose access to them!

  • jic says:

    Marvel is doing a new Conan series, you say? At last, a comic that will get back to Robert E. Howard’s original vision of Conan as a 15 year old Asian lesbian with purple hair!

  • Andy says:

    People always point out that Lovecraft was a racist, but they never seem to mention that he stopped being a Hitler fan after corresponding with Robert E. Howard (not that being a fan of Hitler was especially unusual in the 20s and early 30s. Progressives loved him and Stalin and were easily fooled by the facades put up in Berlin and Moscow). He married a Jewish woman and IIRC his agent was also Jewish, and by the time he died he had softened on a lot of his old opinions. He was actually kind of a failure at being a “vicious racist”.

    I don’t care about Marvel getting Conan back except that one thing Marvel is really good at is their classic reprints. We’ll likely get significant improvements on Dark Horse’s flawed attempts at their Conan collections, especially the early volumes that were never corrected.

    • H.P. says:

      People also fail to point out that Lovecraft’s and Howard’s racism were in keeping with that of Progressive intellectuals of the time, who widely supported eugenics of one sort or another up until WWII.

    • Ingot9455 says:

      Yes, this is the same thing about racism that people didn’t understand about Archie Bunker from All In The Family.

      He was supposed to be a bigot, and he talked a bigot’s game, but he always DID the right thing. His actions showed that his words were just words. And that was why he was a fabulously powerful character.
      (Even in the first episode, Lionel, the young black son of the next door Jefferson family, sees right through Archie’s act.)

      Lovecraft never acted on any of these things. In fact he acted the exact opposite. It was just words.

  • Nicholas Archer says:

    Why do people always complain about Lovecraft or Howard being Racist but rarely do they mention that Marion Bradley was a Pro-LGBT Pedophile?

    Personally, this continued rhetoric makes me want to read their works even more just to draw my own conclusion about their works. Plus does being a terrible person make you a terrible writer?

    Speaking of terrible writers does anyone know if the various Short Story Anthologies by L Ron Hubbard are still in print? I really want to read them.

  • MegaBusterShepard says:

    Converting monsters into playable characters sounds cool but it seems like a pretty niche idea.

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