The Once And Future Blogger, The Department Of Conan Studies, The Anarchism Of Fools, Book-Buying Recommendations, And The ULTIMATE EXCUSE!

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61 Responses

  1. Ken says:

    Forgive the pedantry, but Fritz Leiber was the original author of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories.

  2. Shay says:

    But the real reason to read Howard are his Breckenridge Elkins stories…his command of western dialect and early 20th century slang is priceless.

  3. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States says:

    >>> Fritz Leiber was the original author of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories.

    Yep. Ken's right. De Camp is known for his "Enchanter" series, I believe.

    I'd also recommend Conan of Venarium, bt Harry Turtledove

    Moorcock's works all have been retro'd to fit, if they did not originally aim that way, under his "Eternal Champion" motif. I've liked the Corum series, too — whose hero, being one of the Eternal Champions, is on the opposite side of the Law/Chaos rift from Elric — living as he does in a time of excess Chaos rather than excess Order.

    Moorcock has also written song lyrics, probably the most notable ones being two songs for Blue Öyster Cult — Black Blade, which is essentially about Stormbringer, and Veteran of the Psychic Wars, about Elric, which one might recall from the soundtrack to the 1981 animated movie Heavy Metal.

  4. John Kindley says:

    I don't know if I myself am still welcome around here, but glad to see you back. Forgive the quibble; and words, particularly those used as political labels, are slippery; but I don't think anarchism and socialism, properly understood, are inconsistent. See, e.g., Kropotkin. Government redistributes wealth — that's what it does — and it redistributes it to those we'd expect it to (i.e., not The Poor). Less government means more socialism, properly understood. That doesn't mean Moorcock isn't an ass, although I too have fond memories of Elric of Melnibone. Trashing Lovecraft? And Tolkien?? Really?

  5. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States says:

    >>> There are probably many flaws to libertarianism as a political philosophy, but it's the ultimate excuse when one wishes to end a stupid political conversation.

    There is no idea conceivable by the mind of man — not love nor honor nor duty nor kindness nor compassion nor decency nor anything else — that someone can't take and run straight off the ephing end of the Earth with.

    Libertarianism is no different. It must be tempered by all-too-uncommon "common sense" in its applications.

    There is no perfect "pure" concept which we are able to conceive of which does not have the ability to be twisted into a dark anathema to the notion at its heart. No matter the rule you think you can define should never, ever, under any circumstance be violated, I can provide you with a circumstance — albeit often unlikely and "pathological" (i.e., specifically tailored to the situation) — in which violating that rule is arguably "the Right" thing to do, in the sense of "the lesser of two evils".

    More simply — There is no "ultimate evil act" for which one cannot produce an even more evil act.

  6. First Time Caller, Long Time Listener says:

    Setting aside political pedantry for a moment, where can we continue to find Patrick after this? The crossroads of law and gaming was particularly fascinating to me – and there's always room for another blog in my RSS feed.

  7. Joe says:

    The ultimate flaw to libertarianism as a political philosophy is that it expects people to actually do the right thing and be responsible for their own behavior. (I would use the words “govern themselves accordingly” but that will bring back shades of Marc Stephens) Unfortunately a large percentage of the population seems to do everything possible to avoid such responsibilities.

  8. Best. Post. Ever. I am now going to be pulling various boxes of books I last read in college down from the attic.

  9. tarylcabot says:

    Will be curious to read this collection – I read all 12(?) books that were written with the L Sprague additions back in high school & King Kull had a short story that gave me my epiphany that reality might not exist, so would be curious to re-read that short story again. I wonder if they've come out in audiobook format….looks like our main library has 1 conan & 1 kull on CD.

  10. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    I once lived in a neighborhood that, for some reason, attracted a lot of door-to-door environmental petition canvassers. I started out trying to be polite, but ended up telling them "You have to understand, I think that a lot of the environmental problems in the U.S. could be solved by shooting the board of directors of The Sierra Club."

    For some reason they didn't come back after that.

    As for political campaigns, I find myself in sympathy with Mr. Mencken's proposal that the loser of each Presidential Election be thrown from the top of the Washington Monument, to abate the tiresome tendency of such failures to hang about, cluttering up public life forever after.

    Monarchy looks better every year……

  11. David Schwartz says:

    "Unfortunately a large percentage of the population seems to do everything possible to avoid such responsibilities."

    People respond to incentives. If you want to change the world, change the incentives.

  12. Skip Intro says:

    I will miss your nerdblogging.

  13. Richard Hershberger says:

    "…the genre of "Swords and Sorcery", as Gary Gygax among others called it."

    What a peculiar statement! It is trivially true, yet pointlessly useless: like saying "'To be or not to be', as Gilligan among others said." The term "Sword and Sorcery" was coined in 1961 by Fritz Leiber. (And not to go all pedantic on your ass, but the very first comment pointed out that it was he, and not de Camp, who wrote the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories. Anyone can have a brain fart, but there has been ample time for a correction.) This is over a decade before anyone other than his mother had ever heard of Gary Gygax.

  14. Jag says:

    Great post. I read the Elric series years ago, but never knew they were assembled like the Conan stories. I think the Conan stories are also available via public domain now through Project Gutenberg. Some good classics out in the public domain also formatted for e-readers.

  15. Damon says:

    I'd have to say I read some of the old Conan stuff. I much preferred the Edgar Rice Burroughs books of John Carter, although I guess it is more sci fi than fantasy. :)

    As to telephone calls. I too made the mistake of donating money to a candidate, a republican in my state. Many calls afterwards for money I settled on the following: "in the past, your party has spent money like drunken sailors, or Democrats, and now you come to me for money to get back into power. Prove to me that you'll not repeat the same mistakes. Show me by your actions and the next election I'll write you a check for 10K. Until then STFU.

    One other anecdote. I once had some guy call me to support some repub pres candidate..back before BOB and the repub primaries were complete. My questions to him were as follows:

    Does "candidate" support the repeal of the SS system and Medicare?
    Does "candidate" support the repeal of the 1965 Federal Firearms Act?–because I want to buy a machine gun and a tank".
    Does "candidate" support elimination FRNs and going back to a gold standard?

    I could hear him fumbling with answers….I left him off the hook. It was clear he was an old retired guy, so I cut him some slack. I don't think I’ve gotten a call since then. :)

  16. Patrick says:

    Richard, you're assuming I'd read the post between writing it and your reading of it. I hadn't. You're also assuming I care what you think about my corrections policy, which as often as not is to do nothing. I don't.

    Your tone reminds me that I have considered banning you from reading this site in the past, not for the content of anything that you've written in comments, but for the tone of your comments, which irritates me. I'm not going to make the assumption that you care whether I ban you from reading this site. I'm simply informing you of this. I probably shouldn't even write this response, because you may well not care.

    I should probably just go ahead and ban you.

  17. Dan Weber says:

    I still can't tell if the opening sentence was predictive ("so long and thanks for all the fish") or descriptive ("Ken has become so productive I look like I'm standing still").

    As for libertarianism, even though I describe myself as one (small L), I'm sure if you put me in a room with 4 other people that self-described, I'd want to throttle the lot of them after an hour and find if the Social Worker's Party had a candidate this year. I don't know if it's because of the small size of the movement, or because of the inherent contradictions of having people who eschew group-identification organize as a group.

  18. David says:

    I, too, don't write here. Not often, anyhow.

    I remember learning from someone in my HS D&D group that I should read and be impressed by Moorcock's Elric series. So I snagged them all, and other Eternal Champion books, from a local used bookstore. (Look it up, young'uns).

    The best thing about the Elric series, it turned out, was the cover art by Michael Whelan. Oh, and that one moment where a much-sought tome crumbles to dust.

    On the way to a fireworks display in Ventura one 4th of July, I made the acquaintance of a local rock band called Cirith Ungol. I can't speak to their music, and vice versa, but they had the good sense to license cover art from Whelan, and the lead was on 九届云 about this. So much joy on the part of a rocker seeking fireworks, and all on account of the superb match between his vision of his band's look&feel and Whelan's vision of Elric of Melniboné.

    (It was a middle school friend who had told me that I should read and be impressed by Tolkien. Unlike the HS friend, he was right.)

    That said, the original copyright infringing Deities and Demigods introduced me to Lankhmar, and I much enjoyed Fritz Leiber's series. These, too, were graced in that era with outstanding cover art by Whelan, who was obviously on a roll.

    The reading and rereading of Leiber during those formative years is perhaps what primed me to recognize the aesthetic brilliance of those greatest of PC hybrid games, Thief: The Dark Project et seq.

    Thanks, Fritz. And thanks, original dude who posted, for reminding me. The Conan mythos never meant much to me, but maybe on your word I'll check out the restored edition.

  19. Ken says:

    I find Moorcock unreadable now, but Fritz Leiber delightful.

    And I'm always very happy to see a post by Patrick.

  20. John Kindley says:

    That Moorcock essay Patrick linked to is a gas. I kind of agree with this, toward the end of the essay: "There always comes the depressing point where Robin Hood doffs a respectful cap to King Richard, having clobbered the rival king." I've kind of thought the same thing myself before, at least with respect to Robin Hood. But I almost didn't get to the end of the essay, because of this in the first paragraph: "If I were sitting in a tube train and all the people opposite me were reading Mein Kampf with obvious enjoyment and approval it probably wouldn't disturb me much more than if they were reading Heinlein, Tolkein or Richard Adams."

  21. Damon says:

    @ David.

    Thief the Dark Project. EXCELLENT GAME. Best First person sneaker.

  22. Grandy says:

    I have tried to pick up Moorcock and failed (I've discussed this *briefly* with Patrick and more extensively with my boss; note I think I wound up with an edition that changed drugs to "herbs", which is bullshit). I will at some point due so again (no time right now, alas).

  23. John Kindley says:

    The Shire was a libertarian paradise, wasn't it? And nobody there was really poor, were they? Wikepedia says it was a "voluntarily orderly society. The only government services were the Message Service (the post) and the Watch, the police, whose officers were called Shirriffs, and whose chief duties involved rounding up stray livestock. . . . The Hobbits of the Shire generally obeyed the Rules, that is, the ancient laws of the North Kingdom, and there was no real need to enforce them; all Hobbits voluntarily obeyed them as they were both ancient and just. Hobbits had lawyers, but these dealt mostly with wills and such matters; there is no record of a formal court system, still less of criminal prosecutions or punishments."

    I'm sure I'm not the first to ask these questions about the political philosophy inherent in LOTR. Moorcock apparently did, and answered them quite strangely.

  24. John Kindley says:

    My apologies for the multiple comments. Tolkien wrote in a letter to his son: "My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs)…” I'd read that before but forgot about it. Not sure what Moorcock's gripe was. Jealousy probably.

  25. PLW says:

    "Beyond the Black River" is on Project Gutenberg Australia (http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600741h.html) IANAL, so please remove this if it violates US Copyright law.

  26. egd says:

    "There are probably many flaws to libertarianism as a political philosophy, but it's the ultimate excuse when one wishes to end a stupid political conversation."

    A brilliant line. Not as brilliant as "snort my taint," but surprisingly more useful, at least in polite company.

  27. Tam says:

    "But I almost didn't get to the end of the essay, because of this in the first paragraph: "If I were sitting in a tube train and all the people opposite me were reading Mein Kampf with obvious enjoyment and approval it probably wouldn't disturb me much more than if they were reading Heinlein, Tolkein or Richard Adams.""

    Moorcock's hipsteresque moralizing rarely gets half the kicking it deserves.

  28. Elliot says:

    A lot of Howard's fiction is in the public domain in the US, and therefore available very cheap, or free, for the Kindle or other e-readers. I got a Kindle anthology of 99 stories for $1.99.

    In addition to the Conan stories, Howard wrote some excellent horror fiction; his story "Pigeons from Hell" is real scare-fest.

  29. ctrees says:

    I can't objectively say I found the Elric stories to be good, per se, but I enjoyed many of them. This comes from a high school fascination with Warhammer/W40K, though. Some of the editting/rewriting got quite heavy handed in my editions-you could see the quality drop quickly, and I had the same "it's not drugs, it's HERBS!" change. At least Moorcock's political writing has ruined all his other works for me, like Orson Scott Card's did (I keep reminding myself of the death of the author and it keeps not helping).

    Now Fritz Lieber? *fantastic*

    Also, Tolkien? His core works are top notch youth fiction. I will not accept counterarguments (how they hold up as an adult is irrelevant to this point).

  30. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States says:

    "Unfortunately a large percentage of the population seems to do everything possible to avoid such responsibilities."

    This is not a bug, it's a feature. The goal is to raise people to self-responsibility, and then whack 'em hard on the knuckles when they fail. Some will wind up with broken knuckles. It helps limit the tendency to over-reach.

    I much preferred the Edgar Rice Burroughs books of John Carter, although I guess it is more sci fi than fantasy.

    Actually, I'd say that nowadays, the ERB stuff is more in the middle realm of "science fantasy", like, say, Doctor Who (probably the perfect representative of the genre, offhand, since the 2005 reboot) — where there is an element of scientific trappings but, in the end, there's a hard limit on how much is factual or "reasonable derivative of known facts". With science fantasy, there's a heck of a lot more emphasis on terminology invention and a lot less on concept derivation. Science as Magic, not Science as Derivable Knowledge.

  31. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States says:

    >>> because of the inherent contradictions of having people who eschew group-identification organize as a group.

    Actually, this would be anarchists more than libertarians. Libertarians realize group action is both needful and inevitable, but also realize it is at heart mob action, and therefore has a high opportunity for misuse and abuse.

    Now, if you styled yourself as "President, United Anarchist's Society", then THAT would be inherent contradiction for comic effect.

    >>> That said, the original copyright infringing Deities and Demigods introduced me to Lankhmar

    :oP
    Still have a xerox copy of that. Should scan it and post it up on the internet, methinks…

    >>> At least Moorcock's political writing has ruined all his other works for me, like Orson Scott Card's did (I keep reminding myself of the death of the author and it keeps not helping).

    ??? WTF? Both Moorcock and Card are alive…

    "Watchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?"

  32. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    As regards Moorcock and role playing; and old favorite definition of what a "Munchkin" is in a D&D campaign;

    "Any player who, should his character find Stormbringer and survive, does not instantly bury the damned thing as deeply as possible."

  33. I got halfway through that Moorcock article and had to stop, it just read like a more erudite version of the average Youtube comment. Godwin's Law is just so heavily broken.

  34. ctrees says:

    @IGB: The Death of The Author, by Roland Barthes. Seminal work for post structuralism. The fundamental idea is that the author and his intentions do not matter when regarding a work. Taken without the whole post structural theory, it still helps when attempting to enjoy works by authors one finds repulsive. Unfortunately, I still have too much distaste for Card even with that crutch.

  35. John Kindley says:

    At the risk of diminishing my geek cred, I admit that although I was aware of Fritz Leiber and the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories I don't think I ever read them. I guess that makes me fortunate in a way, as I intend to take a trip to the bookstore tomorrow. Just read Wikipedia on Leiber. He was quite the Renaissance Man.

  36. Des Moines Refugee says:

    Patrick,

    Sad to see you leave. Deities and Demigods for the win. I have an original copy on my bookshelf. I don't think anyone has ever made a connection, but there's a lot of libertarians that play D&D, etc.

    Make your own way, whether by sword or pen. Fair winds and following seas, friend.

    Your save vs bs just increased +1.

    Merry part.

  37. Richard Hershberger says:

    "Richard, you're assuming I'd read the post between writing it and your reading of it. I hadn't. You're also assuming I care what you think about my corrections policy, which as often as not is to do nothing. I don't."

    The facts in evidence seem to indicate that your policy is to knowingly promulgate falsehoods rather than make the effort to correct yourself.

    "Your tone reminds me that I have considered banning you from reading this site in the past, not for the content of anything that you've written in comments, but for the tone of your comments, which irritates me. I'm not going to make the assumption that you care whether I ban you from reading this site. I'm simply informing you of this. I probably shouldn't even write this response, because you may well not care."

    It is mildly interesting to see that you respond poorly to comments you consider insufficiently obsequious.

    "I should probably just go ahead and ban you."

    Ah, the joys of petty authoritarianism! Have you considered seeking employment in airport security?

  38. John Kindley says:

    OMG, what a turd. It would be one thing to adopt a gratuitously shitty tone toward the hosts over something important, but over this?

  39. Patrick says:

    Richard, in case you read this from a place I can't associate with you, it had been a while coming. I looked over your extensive comment history at Popehat before writing that message yesterday, and was reminded again of why I'd considered banning you the last time we had a dustup. Again, it's not what you say. It's how you say it.

    If you want to believe that I'm a sensitive sunflower who cannot endure your scathing wit, you may consider this a validation. Still, you've made one common blunder in your kiss-off, by comparing me to a TSA agent. You seem to think that you have some form of interest in this site, that the site is property held by the public or in common. The more apt analogy would be that of a homeowner, in whose residence you had said something mildly rude. If you, a complete stranger, knocked at my door and I invited you inside, you would be ejected immediately for rudeness. At this site, however, I've allowed you to be rude and insulting many times.

    This was just one time too many.

  40. Tam says:

    "It would be one thing to adopt a gratuitously shitty tone toward the hosts over something important, but over this?"

    Gratuitous shitters gonna shit gratuitously.

  41. David says:

    For my part I salute you, @Richard, for trying to prevent promulgation of the falsehood that L. Sprague de Camp had authored the Lankhmar series. Who knows what perfidy might've ensued had you not squarely addressed the enormity.

  42. John Kindley says:

    Instead of writing above "It would be one thing to adopt . . ." I should have written "It would be bad enough to adopt . . ." In my first comment on this post I cautiously wondered whether I was still welcome here (while hoping and honestly figuring I probably was) because I recently had words with a good friend of Popehat (or at least its senior partner). But that was on my own blog. Hopefully I've always respected that when I'm here I'm in somebody else's house. Now, there's another blog I'm no longer welcome at where the homeowner is fond of wantonly ridiculing his guests. Harder to know what to do in that situation. Fortunately you guys are generally gracious hosts and reserve your ridicule for the really ridiculous.

  43. David says:

    Look, @Patrick! You've got 'em quakin' in their boots! Strike now! Finish them! FINISH THEM!

    HEAR THE LAMENTATION!!!!!

  44. Ken says:

    John Kindley, you have now written two comments being a drama-llama about whether or not you are welcome here, and nobody has banned you, or edited you, or asked you to leave. I live in hope that I will not see a third drama-llama comment on the subject.

  45. Tam says:

    Please don't make the drama llama cry.

  46. John Kindley says:

    David and Tam: I know you guys are just trying to ridicule me into making that third drama-lama comment. Sorry, won't work :)

  47. David says:

    OK, then. You shall remain Galadriel. For now.

  48. Tam says:

    Uh, no, I really have no idea who you are or what any of that was about. I was just reminded of Robb's awesome drama llama cartoon and linked it because it's funny.

  49. Rich Rostrom says:

    Someone once made the following comment about modern fantasy:

    "If Robert E Howard is a powerful but coarse Burgundy, and JRR Tolkien is a fine brandy, then L Sprague de Camp is a very, very dry martini."

    As for Moorcock and Tolkien – the Shire is idealized traditional rural England. And British lefties like Moorcock hate, with a deep visceral passion, traditional English rural society.

  50. Jess says:

    I’ve always loved the Peter Morwood trilogy of the Book of Years (Horse Lord, Demon Lord, Dragon Lord), given their interesting focus on long lost rituals of honor and just the general cadence of the language in how the story is crafted. Each book can be read and appreciated solo. I especially like the last one in the series, The Dragon Lord. There is a follow on book that attempts to close the series that I just did not care for. Frankly I just think Morwood lost the original magic of the story – and besides I just didn’t like how it ended.

    I have always been a fan of the JRR Tolkien series. I still get a kick out of re-reading them every other year or so. The movies are never as good as the imagination for the reader. I could almost imagine a letter from the book to the movie – Dear The Movie, Meh, Sincerely, The Book.

    Lastly, I enjoyed Tad Williams and the Dragonbone Chair. Likely because it is the classic Arthurian tale of a young man who is a bastard child of a king growing up as a “kitchen boy” who learns important lessons, acquires courage along the way, and eventually grows up to be king.

    On another note, fact may be stranger than fiction – list of “actual” books

    Bombproof your Horse (because we all know how important that horses be – well bomb proof)

    Cooking with Pooh (hey – get your mind out of the gutter – this is a book about Winny the Pooh Yummy Tummy Cookie Cutter Treats )

    If God Loves Me Why Can’t I Get My Locker Open (or in my case if God loves me why is it so damn hard to get out of bed in the morning)

    Down Home Gynecology (nope not going to go there – see also The Joy of Uncircumcising)

    Excrement in the Late Middle Ages (an interdisciplinary book that integrates the historical practices regarding material excrement and its symbolic representation, with special focus on fecopoetics and Chaucer’s literary agenda – eh sorry to tell the author but shit is still shit and so is this book)

  51. Joe says:

    @Padrick – well sometimes you cannot teach someone (Richard) manners. To my recollection both myself and Christoph have “corrected” Ken but it was done in a respectful and lighthearted manner not a snotty let me shove it in your face manner. Sometimes graciousness is worth remembering. My correction was only grammatical in that Ken had used the word “altered” instead of “alerted” (spell check doesn’t always catch everything). Rather than being an ass about it I joked about hoping he hadn’t been altered and he replied “yeah they didn’t even use anesthesia and my ass looks great. “ If one is a guest in someone else’s home sometimes remembering one’s manners is a good thing.

  52. Grandy says:

    I wouldn't put that in the same sentence as what Cristoph did, Joe. Or we're talking about different things.

    Actually, the Cristoph scenario is a pretty good example as Ken was gracious there, but Cristoph was being a bit of a llama himself.

  53. SPQR says:

    Jess, Tad Williams' Memory,Sorrow and Thorn series which begins with Dragonbone Chair is among my favorites of fantasy. A wonderful fantasy that uses the Tolkien trilogy structure, and the richness of Tolkien's writing style but is not at all derivative of Tolkien.

  54. Jess says:

    SPQR – yeah I forgot to mention I've got the entire series. It's paperback and falling apart I've read it so many times.

  55. Piper says:

    Welcome back Patrick! Love the Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser references too (though I did get curious about the writings of Mr. de Camp :).

  56. doug says:

    There are probably many flaws to libertarianism as a political philosophy, but it's the ultimate excuse when one wishes to end a stupid political conversation.

    i am going to use that quote.

  57. John Kindley says:

    Libertarianism's only flaw as a political philosophy is that it's not anarchism. Seems to me it would help if people recognized the blindingly self-evident truth of anarchism on the philosophical level even if we still fear the implications of that truth on the practical level.

  1. April 11, 2012

    [...] Patrick, at Popehat. Read it now. It includes mentions of Conan, Gary Gygax (who I met once at Gen Con, circa 1986, [...]

  2. April 11, 2012

    [...] Patrick's post at Popehat, and his link to an essay in which old school "Swords and Sorcery" author Michael Moorcock, who appears to both share my political / economic beliefs and be a total douchebag, compared Tolkien to Adolf Hitler, prompted me by way of a little Googling to remind myself that Tolkien also shared my political / economic beliefs. [...]