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Robert-E-Howard: Electronic Amateur Press Association BLOG

“Dynamic Don” Strikes (Out) Again OR “Herron and the Herrontics”

I’ve been away from this blog for too long, and an update on the REHEAPA web site is also forthcoming. We’ve got more great bibliographical stuff from Lee Breakiron, and I’m polishing up my own new contribution — already done in print in REHupa — on “The Bright Barbarian.”

I’ve recently been alerted by one of my great Howardist friends that Don Herron is at it again. “At it” in his usual and maybe ONLY mode—that is by praising his own prior efforts by patting himself on the back so hard that he almost breaks his arm, and disparaging anyone on Earth in Howard studies who dares to think differently or even who dares to think “NEW” on things Howardian. It even seems that he disparages anyone who dares to THINK — who is not he at least. And whether his recent rants display “thinking” is, perhaps, questionable, especially since Don has the bad habit of priding himself in being uninformed (not reading directly my stuff or Al Harron’s or whomevers directly, but, rather, preferring to get his info second or third hand).

The following offers some recent Don-ian ejaculations and my rejoinders to them. Now, anyone who has followed the Don vs. Frank wars over the years (especially on message boards like rehinnercircle), know that we have “a past.” The times I’ve met Don in person at past Howard Days (the only times we’ve met), we’ve actually gotten along reasonably well, sharing talk and debate over a few beers and even laughs. I don’t think that will be the case should we meet in the future. I thought we might have gotten beyond the point of his disparagement of me as a person legitimately and academically and scholarly interested in Robert E. Howard’s work. This hasn’t happened. Beyond that, he has looked askance at the work of various friends of mine in Howardian studies, and, typical of Don, looked askance without any merited rationale or supportive evidence.

Time and again, he’s criticized me for: 1) simply being an academic, as if, ipso facto, that de-legitimizes any scholarly capability on my part, and 2) being a “boring” writer. I’ll let any readers of my stuff make the final decision on both of these points.

So, to continue with some specific answers to some of Don’s recent effusions.

Some Herronisms [with some interjected rebuttals in ALL CAPS—not shouting, just differentiating (I wouldn’t want my words or ideas to be confused with Don’s in any way)]:

“The way I look at it, if I never do another word about the creator of Conan, my rep in that arena is secure.”
—http://www.donherron.com/?p=861

THIS, DON, IS YOUR GREATEST PROBLEM. YOU THINK THAT YOUR TWO ANTHOLOGIES AND SOME OF YOUR EARLY ESSAYS ARE THE BE-ALL AND END-ALL OF HOWARDIAN STUDIES. BY THE WAY, IF YOU WOULD DEIGN TO READ MY BOOK ROBERT E. HOWARD: SELECTED POEMS, YOU’D FIND THAT THERE (ALSO ELSEWHERE) I’VE CALLED THE DARK BARBARIAN A “SEMINAL WORK” AND GREATLY IMPORTANT TO HOWARDIAN STUDIES. THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT I THINK HOWARDIAN STUDIES OR DISCUSSION AND DEBATE SHOULD END WITH YOUR WORKS OR THAT ALL HOWARD RESEARCHERS OR SCHOLARS SHOULD BOW AND MAKE OBEISANCE TO YOUR MIGHTY SHADOW. THERE SHOULD BE ROOM FOR DISCUSSION AND DEBATE AND DISSENT FROM YOUR IDEAS AND THEORIES — OR WHAT’S LITERARY CRITICISM FOR?

“But I must compliment Al on another recent post he did — very funny, and spot on — concerning the upcoming book of essays Conan Meets the Academy, where the initial blurb says flat-out that it is the first scholarly investigation of Conan. The only way you could suggest that it is “first” would be if you consider the idea that the essays are written by academics (including Professor Frank) and that only professors can do litcrit (some people apparently believe that — the poor saps, the poor deluded saps).”
—http://www.donherron.com/?p=2108

IF YOU WERE STILL A MEMBER OF THE INNERCIRCLE GROUP, YOU’D SEE THAT JEFF SHANKS AND I (TWO CONTRIBUTORS TO THE FORTHCOMING ACADEMIC ANTHOLOGY) OBJECTED TO AND COMPLAINED TO THE EDITOR THAT THE BLURB WAS GOING FAR TOO FAR IN SUGGESTING A “FIRST” SERIOUS ANTHOLOGY. MY SUGGESTED REPHRASING OF THE BLURB WAS AS FOLLOWS: “The first compilation [or ‘anthology’] of serious scholarship EXCLUSIVELY by academics ACROSS VARIOUS DISCIPLINES AND CRITICAL APPROACHES.’ or something like that or in that tone would, I think, be better.” SO, YOU SEE DON, I’M ACTUALLY IN YOUR CAMP ON THIS ONE. MANY ACADEMICS — ESPECIALLY THOSE NEW TO HOWARD CRITICISM OR STUDY, AREN’T FAMILIAR WITH THE MONUMENTAL WORK THAT INDEPENDENT SCHOLARS (SUCH AS YOURSELF, AND MANY OTHERS) HAVE ALREADY DONE. A FEW OF US ARE PRIVY TO THAT, AND WE’RE THE ONES WHO SPRANG IMMEDIATELY TO THE DEFENSE OF INDEPENDENT SCHOLARS — A FAVOR THAT YOU AND YOUR PROTEGE HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO RETURN, AS IT PERTAINS TO ACADEMIC RESEARCHERS.

“And somewhere in those long months I do recall Al taking the side of Professor Frank Coffman in a little dust-up I had with him — my only advice, Al, is that no one who really knows Howard Studies would ever side with Frank over me about anything. Honest.”
—quoted on Al Harron’s blog in part of their interactions
http://theblogthattimeforgot.blogspot.com/2011/10/im-still-somewhat-astonished-that-don.html

I TRY TO TEACH MY STUDENTS TO “BEWARE OF EXTREME WORDS” — WORDS LIKE “ANYTHING” IN THE CONTEXT ABOVE. IT SEEMS THAT DON IS ASSERTING THAT HIS OPINION MUST ALWAYS BE BETTER THAN MINE ON ANY SUBJECT UNDER THE SUN. I’LL LET READERS OF HIS BLOG AND THIS BLOG, HIS STUFF AND MINE DECIDE ON THE VALIDITY OF THAT QUESTIONABLE PREMISE.

“Someone tipped me off to a mini-rebuttal Professor Frank Coffman made to my dismissal of Conan Meets the Academy — a book Frank is set to appear in — as a throwback to the kinds of books L. Sprague de Camp used to assemble from material that had appeared previously in the fanzine Amra, edited by George Scithers. The Conan Reader (1968). The Conan Swordbook (1969). The Conan Grimoire (1972). Complete reliance on the name Conan to attract fanboy buyers — which may have worked for de Camp back when, but I don’t think will sell many copies of the new academic-oriented tome. They’ve made a big mistake commercially by putting ‘Academy’ in the title — they should have titled it Conan the Supercilious or something.

HOW ON EARTH CAN ONE CALL THE CONTENT “SUPERCILIOUS” PRIOR TO READING IT? ONE WOULD THINK THAT AN EAGER AND SINCERE “RESEARCHER” OR “SCHOLAR” WOULD READ EVERYTHING THAT COMES DOWN THE PIKE (TIME PERMITTED) IN THE HOPE THAT SOME NEW INCITES WOULD EITHER BE PRESENTED — OR PERHAPS EVEN STIMULATED, IF ONLY IN REBUTTAL AND DEFENSE OF ALREADY-HELD OPINIONS.

Frank’s rebuttal notes, ‘The stuff in those LSdC’s was from Amra wasn’t it?’

OF COURSE I KNEW THAT THE STUFF WAS FROM AMRA. I’M IN THE CAMP (NOTE: NOT DE CAMP) THAT BELIEVES THAT RHETORICAL QUESTIONS (erotema AS THE CLASSICAL GREEK RHETORICAL FIGURE IS OFFICIALLY KNOWN — SOMETHING THAT DON LIKELY DOESN’T THINK TO BE A WORTHWHILE STUDY) ARE STILL VALID TURNS OF PHRASE. THE FORTHCOMING ACADEMIC ANTHOLOGY ACTUALLY WILL OFFER SOME REALLY NEW PERSPECTIVES, BUT DON (WITHOUT READING IT, OF COURSE), KNOWS THAT IT MUST BE DERIVATIVE AND UNORIGINAL, SIMPLY BECAUSE ACADEMIC SCHOLARS WERE AT WORK. I WILL SUBMIT THAT THIS SORT OF CLOSED-MINDEDNESS IS NOT WHAT TRUE SCHOLARS AND RESEARCHERS BELIEVE IN. TRUE SCHOLARS SEEK DEBATE AND DISAGREEMENT AND CHALLENGE AND NEW IDEAS.

He adds, ‘Those books contained stuff about stylometric analysis and archeological connections for Conan? Did they suggest that Conan isn’t quite the ‘Dark’ barbarian that Herron maintains?’
—http://www.donherron.com/?p=2175

I AM INDEED WORKING ON THE DEFENSE OF A BELIEF THAT THE CONAN WE SEE IN THE STORIES IS NOT THE ULTIMATELY “DARK BARBARIAN” OF THE LOVECRAFT-HOWARD (CIVILIZATION VS. BARBARISM) DEBATE. TO BE THE PROTAGONIST, CONAN (AND OTHER “BARBARIANS” OF HOWARD’S CREATION) ARE, OF NECESSITY SUPERIOR IN ENLIGHTENMENT AND IN SOCIALIZATION TO THE “BAD GUYS” THEY DEFEAT. MY FIRST EXAMPLE IN A RECENT REHUPA ARTICLE OF MINE IS THE CONAN SEEN IN “THE DEVIL IN IRON.” WE CAN ADD THE DECIDEDLY ADVANCED HERO FROM HOWARD’S FIRST PUBLISHED TALE, “SPEAR AND FANG” AS AN EXAMPLE. MORE ON THIS LATER.

“But what Frank is saying unwittingly is that, yes, the ideas put forth in The Dark Barbarian have come to be the standard accepted critical concepts in Howard Studies over the last couple of decades.”
—http://www.donherron.com/?p=2175

WHILE I CERTAINLY HAVE SAID SOME THINGS “UNWITTINGLY” IN MY LIFETIME (AND WHO HASN’T?), I AM NOT SAYING ANYTHING “UNWITTINGLY” IN THIS CONTEXT, AND CERTAINLY I’M NOT SAYING WHAT DON SAYS I’M SAYING. I DON’T BELIEVE IN “STANDARD” CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES — WHILE I ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THEY EXIST. THEY ARE THERE PRECISELY TO BE CHALLENGED AND MULLED OVER AND QUESTIONED — AND REFUTED, IF NEED BE. THE SCHOLAR WHO SAYS: “THERE IT IS! EUREKA! I’VE DISCOVERED THE TRUTH, THE ONLY PROPER PERSPECTIVE ON THIS SUBJECT! NO FURTHER INVESTIGATION IS NEEDED.” — THAT PERSON IS NOT A SCHOLAR.

“I touched on it briefly toward the end of a recent post, where I quote Professor Frank Coffman as asking, ‘Did they suggest that Conan isn’t quite the ‘Dark’ barbarian that Herron maintains?’

Apparently Frank is toying around with the idea of ‘The Bright Barbarian’ — if he can articulate the concept in an essay, maybe he thinks he can dethrone my idea as the dominant theory in Howard Studies of the last twenty years. I don’t know if Frank is up to writing an essay that would have to be That Good, but he’s definitely monkeying with the concept. I first noticed it mentioned in his review of the Jason Momoa Conan movie — if you want to look into it, feel free, but I warn you that Frank is one of the least readable figures in Howard Studies. You’ll have to plow through a lot of verbiage about how only elite intellectuals have the technical stylistic tools to do real criticism, and you’ll be blindsided by a comparison of Conan the Barbarian with Battleship Potemkin. Jeez.

I’M NOT JUST “TOYING WITH THE IDEA” OF THE “BRIGHT BARBARIAN.” I’M ACTUALLY RESEARCHING THE CONCEPT (NEW RESEARCH, SOMETHING THAT DON HASN’T DONE OF LATE). I DON’T “TOY” WITH IDEAS. I HAVE THEM OR CONSIDER THEM AND DECIDE IF I WANT TO ADOPT THEM OR REJECT THEM OR PURSUE THEM.

But for what it’s worth, that’s the first place I noticed the term ‘The Bright Barbarian,’ and now I await the onslaught in my impregnable redoubt. (I think I’ll have time to take a nap.)”
—http://www.donherron.com/?p=2216

NAP TIME MAY BE CLOSE TO OVER, DON. BUT I WILL AGREE THAT YOU HAVE BEEN “NAPPING” WHEN IT COMES TO REH SCHOLARSHIP OF LATE. WHY DON’T YOU WAKE UP AND ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE OF SERIOUSLY AND LOGICALLY DEFENDING YOUR IDEAS — OR MAYBE EVEN ACCEPTING SOME NEW ONES — RATHER THAN CONTINUING AD HOMINEM ATTACKS ON THOSE WHO ARE SERIOUSLY RESEARCHING IN THE FIELD?

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November 7, 2011 Posted by | General | Leave a comment

   

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