I had an interesting experience the past couple of days. As you know, I am a huge fan of Robert E. Howard. I think he’s the best fantasy writer we’ve seen yet. And as BlackGate.com showed with its Discovering Robert E. Howard series, he wrote well in several genres.
Monday night, I saw the news that Funcom (maker of the Age of Conan MMO
, which I like) and Cabinet group LLC (holders of the rights to Robert E. Howard’s works) jointly formed a new company, Heroic Signatures, to get more use out of the digital/gaming rights to almost two dozen REH characters and stories. I quickly wrote up a post
Back in January of 2015, I wrote a Black Gate
post titled, Ya Gotta Ask
. Basically it said that whatever I’ve managed to achieve (if anything) in the writing field is because I’ve approached people with suggestions or offers that landed me writing gigs (note – not paying ones). It never hurts to ask. Not so far, anyways.
Well, I sent in a ‘Contact Us’ form at the Cabinet Group website on Tuesday, saying that a lot of people would like to see some new fiction featuring REH’s characters (not just games). And also, there are authors who would like to write that fiction.
Figuring my form submission would probably not have any effect, I copied it into a FB message to the company president (anybody could have done this. I found his name on the website). Surprisingly, he messaged me back about ten minutes later, telling me he agreed with me, sharing some information on the Conan pastiche field and revealing that new REH pastiches would be coming in 2018. I was also quite surprised to learn he knew who I was. Must have read me at Black Gate.
He provided a bit more info and said I could let the cat out of the bag. Another rushed post
made the announcement at lunchtime on Tuesday and the REH Facebook world was agog. Apparently this was news to just about everybody. Folks are excited, cautiously optimistic and/or interested – both in reading and writing new stories featuring REH’s characters.
One FB poster referred to me as a ‘Black Gate reporter,’ which made me chuckle. And another, sharing my links, said he couldn’t verify the news anywhere else. While I don’t think anybody should assume my word is gold, I never thought anybody would doubt it. Simply because it would never occur to me to make something like that up.
Things are happening behind the scenes and I’m watching the parts I know of (not much). Fredric Malberg, head honcho at Cabinet Group, has agreed to respond to some questions, which I’ll turn into a Black Gate
post (similar to this one
I did last year).
From what little I know (like I ever let THAT stop me), I don’t think that Cabinet is going to take ‘The Tor Approach’ and crank out a lot of mediocre pastiches (some were good, like Conan the Rogue by John Maddox Roberts and John Hocking’s The Emerald Lotus, but many were not). And I certainly don’t expect nearly a dozen Age of Conan spin offs (I hope not).
And if they get a good line editor (I’ve got a vote for that one) and quality authors, I think REH fans will be pleased to see new stories featuring Steve Harrison, or Sailor Steve Costigan, or El Borak, or Solmon Kane or whoever (I love Conan, but REH wrote about a lot more than just the mightily-thewed Cimmerian).
Harry Turtledove’s Conan of Venarium came out in 2002. It’s been fifteen years since an REH pastiche. And even that one came five years after the prior Conan novel.
Cabinet could easily have gone another fifteen years without any new books about REH’s characters, so I’m excited. And I’m pleased it’s not just Conan. I would like to add some new REH books alongside my original text Del Rey editions.
Here’s how I choose to look at it: The rights holders focused on getting unabridged REH texts out there. So, we got the Del Rey series (which is what made me an REH fan) and some excellent books from the Robert E. Howard Foundation Press. We were weaned off of the de Camp edits. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt heading into the world of new REH pastiches.
Hopefully the Q&A will yield some more details on what we can expect. I do know that the first book will be out in 2018. May it be the first of many.