Monday, 5 December 2022
Sunday, 4 December 2022
Another year lumbers toward its end, and I have not one but two poetry pamphlets from Cardinal Cox, former Poet Laureate of Peterborough. I'm saving one for the New Year, but today I'm typing some vague thoughts on Codex Nemedia, a homage to and mediation on the works of Robert E. Howard.
Is Howard ripe for reassessment? I only ask because he was a pretty good writer for action/adventure stories with a fantasy/supernatural basis. Conan the Barbarian now seems a little camp and outdated, but even if you don't rate those stories, they represent a small percentage of Howard's prodigious output. I recently encountered some stories about the rather odd Puritan freebooter Solomon Kane, and was impressed by their verve and concision. The same can be said for Howard's Lovecraftian fiction.
Anyway, in this pamphlet, the Cardinal examines the psychic reveries of James Allison. One of those mental adventurers in time and space, Allison explored many fascinating worlds, presumably while having a nice lie-down. All right for some, eh lads? The first poem, 'Kull the Pirate', is a good opener, with its pithy lines about a galley overhauling a fat merchant sailing vessel, only to discover... Well, that would be telling.
The second piece, 'Conan versus the Tcho-Tcho', takes us inland to a city 'older than Atlantis isle' where some dodgy monks offer human sacrifices to 'spacegods', a coinage I really must steal at some point. Conan is unimpressed, and cements his reputation as one of the most ethical mercenaries by sorting out the evil clergy. The note to this poem fleshes out details of the post-glacial Europe where this sort of thing occurred. It's as if Graham Hancock had been honest and just written some decent fiction.
The range of Howard's interests are well-represented. We get Celtic warriors, both from Roman and medieval times. He created several swordswomen, of whom Sonya (aka Red Sonja) is the best known. And Solomon Kane is here, a strange Tudor character lamenting his lost love ('I carry a locket holding her hair') and venturing onto blank bits of the map. The more I think about this character the more bonkers it all seems, but somehow the setup workers.
The pamphlet ends with homages to Howard's contemporary stories and his science fiction. For a writer who died young, he was remarkably prolific, and I think the energy and range of the man is well represented here. While not as powerful as Lovecraft, Howard's fiction still packs a punch and, at its best, measures up alongside the works of William Hope Hodgson and Abraham Merritt. An unpretentious visionary, but a visionary nonetheless.
If you would like sample Codex Nemedia, send an SAE to the usual address:58 Pennington
Thursday, 1 December 2022
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