Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Eternity in a loon tattoo

Earlier this month my older daughter Hannah turned 21; today my younger daughter Libby turned 18. I don't have kids anymore, I've got two adults I brought into the world.

They are now joined together by this unexpected tattoo on Hannah's shoulder. Drawn by Libby (if you look closely you can see her initials amid the feathers), then inked by an artist.

This one got me. Hannah is not someone to run out and get a tattoo, and both kept it from the wife and I until a reveal last night over Facetime.

The loon is a symbol of the magic that is our family's multi-generational cabin, which sits on the shores of Highland Lake in NH. When you hear the weird and mournful cry of a loon in the early morning hours, or as the sun sets, it's unforgettable. That sound is in Hannah's blood and is now on her shoulder, along with the bond to her sister.

My daughters are my greatest accomplishment and I have done nothing to deserve such wonderful souls. I have tried to raise them right, aim them in the right direction when life would steer them wrong. I think the kids are all right. 

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Cross Plains Chronicle: Less than six weeks to go

Hither Came Conan... and thither I go, to Cross Plains
The Cross Plains countdown continues … less than six weeks until events kick off at Robert E. Howard Days.

A couple new items of note:

I have been added as a speaker. I recently received an invitation from Jason Ray Carney to present a paper at The Glenn Lord Symposium, a panel session held the afternoon of Friday, April 28 at the Cross Plains Methodist Church. Jason is the moderator and Dierk Guenther is one other presenter, the third TBD. This is an academic session so I have to prepare and then read a paper of 1500-1800 words.

I just need to figure out the small matter of a topic. Feel free to fire any ideas my way.

Secondly, Rogue Blades Foundation managing editor Jason Waltz will be attending and debuting Hither Came Conan, a collection of essays about Howard’s most famous literary creation that seeks to settle the question, which Conan story is best in life? Including one from me, in which I stump for “Rogues in the House.”

For the record I don’t think RitH is the best Conan story, but Waltz had a hole he needed filling and I stepped up. I do the love the story however and upon re-read discovered an interesting subtext that became the focal point of my essay. So … is Rogues in the House the best? Read and decide…

That reminds me, I need to figure out how much cash to bring. There will be many opportunities to spend including a silent auction, books from the Robert E. Howard Foundation, plus the not so small matter of food and beer. I’m figuring a wad. And maybe an extra suitcase for my loot on the return trip.

All the non-fandom (friends, family, co-workers) I speak to about this trip are VERY intrigued, though their initial reaction is that I’m going to some cultural hot-spot like Austin or Houston or San Antonio, a bustling city with live music and art exhibits and high-end restaurants and breweries. 

Then I show them a map of Texas and point to Cross Plains.

“What’s that near?”

“Wait, Cross Plains has fewer people than my high school?”

“Have fun man! Send pictures.”

Friday, March 17, 2023

Iron Maiden, "Stranger in a Strange Land"

Iron Maiden is perhaps my favorite metal band of all time.

"Stranger in a Strange Land" is perhaps my favorite Iron Maiden song.

Which should make "Stranger" ... my favorite song of all time?

No, not ready to say that. That's not a clean equation. But it is an absolute gem, 10/10 on the metal richter scale.

I love everything about this song. Steve Harris' melodic bass intro. The atmospheric build up. Bruce's off-the-charts vocals. And then,  Adrian's guitar solo. IMO his best. It's divine, I'll leave it at that. See 3:18. And damn, the counterpoint bass. It takes you to another planet, as does the entire album. Because it is Somewhere in Time.

I'll admit my analysis of this tune lacks any objectivity. I burned through TWO Somewhere in Time tapes in high school, listening to them so many times in my boom box and my car stereo that they simply wore out, the reels squeaking so much I had to discard them.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

My values

The most rewarding professional activity I have engaged in this year was working with a leadership team to develop our company values.

We’re working to incorporate them in everything we do. At our weekly all-team kickoff we give values shout-outs to people who have exhibited them in their work.

This exercise prompted me to clarify my own values, and I thought I’d share them here. Just doing this is a hard proof point for no. 2 (“authenticity, inward and outward”).

  • Truth—“When a man lies he murders some part of the world.” Without this everything falls apart. Lying makes me feel like shit, being lied to is the worst. So strive for truth, always.
  • Authenticity, inward and outward—I’m the only one of me, I’m worthy of love, so I’m choosing to be me. Not being a chameleon in various people’s company, but bringing my unique self to everything I do. When you stop worrying what others think you free up huge headspace and feel liberated/empowered. Be true within; project that truth out.
  • Seek connection—relationships create meaning. Family and friends, community, are what make a meaningful life. Giving back to others is inherently rewarding. Strive for connection—whether that is fun/bringing joy, or something deeper. I’m a natural introvert and enjoy time alone to recharge, but the best times in my life have been in the company of others.
  • One life—You’ve only got one life, so don’t waste it, be productive. If something needs doing, do it right, and soon. Staying busy makes me happy. That also means operating with intention in everything I do, even my free time. Read the book on that Saturday afternoon; take the vacation. Enjoy it.
  • Stay positive—There is too much negativity in the world. Twitter has forgotten that life is beautiful. Adopt a positive mindset. Rather than attacking others, assume the best in other people and treat them well. It’s a better operating system, and it also makes you a more likeable person.

If you haven’t done this for yourself, I recommend it. It’s not easy—they’re an operating system, they don’t change with the wind, so you’re not going to whip these out in five minutes. 

But if you don’t operate with clearly defined values, someone else will make you operate by theirs.

I don’t always hit the mark. But they give me something to aim at.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Cross Plains Chronicle: Letters of Robert E. Howard, vol. 2

The West is the best...

One of the ways I’ve been mentally gearing up for my trip to Cross Plains is by reading Robert E. Howard’s letters, including a recent purchase of the new vol. 2 from the Robert E. Howard Foundation. These cover the years 1930-32. I want to get into the dude’s mind before I make my way to his hometown.

I found these fun, interesting, inspiring, and revealing. If you want to learn who Howard was and how he thought, his letters are a must. A large portion of this collection are long missives to H.P. Lovecraft, with whom Howard began corresponding in 1930.

Howard’s collected letters are just that, all the letters that HE wrote. Absent are Lovecraft’s responses that we get in A Means to Freedom (Hippocampus Press), which still makes that two volume set a must. Mixed in among the letters to HPL are letters to Howard’s friends, publishers, fans, snatches of poetry and verse, etc., and so the collected letters are absolutely worth reading for any Howard fan.

Understatement: REH was an interesting dude, thoughtful, full of wild passions, heights of ecstasy and depths of despair. He held his own in a spar of ideas with Lovecraft, a first-rate intellect, and in so doing reveals a whole lot about himself. This is first-rate correspondence.

He was also, undoubtedly, going to write at length about the history of Texas, had he lived longer. Look at this passage for example, of the hard men and women who settled the frontier, and recently passed into history:

Well they have gone into the night, a vast and silent caravan, with their buckskins and their boots, their spurs and their long rifles, their wagons and their mustangs, their wars and their loves, their brutalities and their chivalries, they have gone to join their old rivals, the wolf, the panther and the Indian, and only a crumbling ‘dobe wall, a fading trail, the breath of an old song, remain to mark the roads they travelled. But sometimes when the night wind whispers forgotten tales through the mesquite and the chaparral, it is easy to imagine that once again the tall grass bends to the tread of a ghostly caravan, that the breeze bears the jingle of stirrup and bridle-chain, and that spectral camp-fires are winking far out on the plains.

We would have had some amazing western literature from Howard’s typewriter, blending poetic flourishes with a higher degree of realism than you find in his fantastic stories. Possibly tales about Billy the Kid or John Wesley Hardin, whose tales he regales Lovecraft at length. He spends more time writing about Texas history than any other subject in these letters.

Some believe that Howard fetishized barbarians; he did not. He (merely) believed barbarism was the inevitable state of mankind. That fact was not to be celebrated as it reveals something dark and imperfectible and eternal in human nature. It means that civilization will ultimately decay and collapse, but also inevitably rise again—Howard wrote that “civilization is a natural and inevitable consequence” of our development. As others have noted he had a cyclical view of history, a natural rise and fall. Howard also held the physical realm in equipoise with the mental; he loved football and boxing and stories of strength and endurance. We get lots of brutal descriptions of athletic competition in the letters.

All of this led him to an inevitable clash with Lovecraft. HPL had no use for the physical and no use for barbarians. His loyalties lay with Roman order, Howard’s with the oppressed native tribes, barbarians, and the outsider. “Sometimes I think Bran is merely the symbol of my own antagonism toward the empire, an antagonism not nearly so easy to understand as my favoritism for the Picts,” he wrote. 

Above all, Howard believed in freedom of the individual, and distrusted government in all its forms, as well as the overreach of big business, and the pressure to conform to societal expectations. “In the last analysis, I reckon, I have but a single conviction or ideal, or whateverthehell it might be called: individual liberty. It’s the only thing that matters a damn.”

I don’t like to set up an artificial "winner" of these debates but Howard proves to have a very balanced, reflective mind, open to change, and so fares well. Yes, he waxes romantic and poetic and extols the virtues of barbarians, and also broods darkly to the point of despair, all of which colors and distorted the reality that lay around him. But, he also displays a surprising level of introspection and nuance. For example, he counters Lovecraft quite effectively by arguing that the physical and the mental must work in harmony. Modern science confirms this (our brains are gray matter, and require adequate sleep, nutrition, and regular exercise to operate at a full capacity. HPL fell short in that regard, and likely did himself in by neglecting the physical—he had a notoriously bad diet). 

Lovecraft is consistently revealed as the more extreme of the two men, politically and socially, and Howard often the more prescient. But beneath their disagreements both had a genuine underlying respect for one another. Howard at times seems awed by the correspondence, and deferential to the elder Lovecraft. And he’s spot-on with this observation: “And indeed, many writers of the bizarre are showing your influence in their work, not only in Weird Tales but in other magazines as well; earlier evidences of an influence which will grow greater as time goes on, for it is inevitable that your work and art will influence the whole stream of American weird literature, and eventually the weird literature of the world.”

Howard was mostly of Irish ancestry and adored Celtic mythology, but he maintained a particular affinity for the Norse. His first foray into fiction was about a young Viking, he read and enjoyed the Sagas, and he wrote passages like the following:

All that is deep and gloomy and Norse in me rises in my blood. I would go east into the sunshine and the nodding palm trees, but I bide and the dream of the twilight of the gods is on me, and the dreams of cold and misty lands and the ancient pessimism of the Vikings. It seems to me, especially in the autumn, that that one vagrant Danish strain that is mine  predominates above all my Celtic blood.

Norse Saga and myth underpins and unites much of sword-and-sorcery, as I piece together in Flame and Crimson.

We get interesting insights into Weird Tales and editor Farnsworth Wright’s editorial decisions and publishing choices. Impressionable bits of Howard's youth that help explain why we see so many snakes in his stories (Howard nearly stepped on a rattler as a boy and declared he had a sixth sense for their presence, feeling a wave of a nausea when one was nearby). “I hate snakes, they are possessed of a cold, utterly merciless cynicism and sophistication, and a sense of super-ego that puts them outside the pale of warm-blooded creatures.” See "The God in the Bowl," Satha, etc. for how this played out in his fiction. He was constantly peppering his letters with poetry, either snatches of verse or full completed verse and meter, some of outstanding quality. We get his desire to have his poems published in a volume for which he had already chosen a title, Echoes from an Iron Harp. We see him writing about the rise of Conan into his mind, and the conception of the Hyborian Age. We see his Agnostic beliefs on display, blended with a half-belief in reincarnation and ancestral memory. His loyalty to blue-collar workers, on and on. Of course the letters put Howard’s racism on display so be prepared for that, too.

They are him, bold, full-blooded and four-color, on the page.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Cross Plains Chronicle: Less than eight weeks to Howard Days

The Robert E. Howard Days website is counting down the days, as am I. Less than eight weeks until I make the trek to central Texas and the Howard homestead for Howard Days 2023! Anticipation is building.

REH is not exactly selling me on the trip though. From his Collected Letters vol. 2: “I live in a section of the country not particularly stimulating to the imagination, unless the inhabitants continual struggle against starvation can be said to be a stimulant.”


I picked a good year to attend. 100 Years of Weird Tales is a theme which packs plenty of appeal for me. As you’d expect the panel sessions focus on the magazine that published its last pulp issue in 1954 but never really died. It soldiered on in fits and starts as a paperback and a magazine, all the way up through the present. Weird Tales played a critical role in the creation of sword-and-sorcery due to its permissive editorial policy which allowed for genre mixing and experimentation. And, as some scholars have noted, through its role as a "discourse community," which included a supportive but sometimes acerbic letters column called The Eyrie. Think message board and listserve pre-internet, and you're on the right track.

Let’s take a dive into the programming.

I fly into DFW just after 12:30 p.m. CST on Thursday April 27. We’re planning on heading into Cross Plains that afternoon and there are a couple events on schedule. Not sure if we’ll be hitting these or not, or just hang out informally at the pavilion. 

From the events page:

  • 2-4 PM: The Robert E. Howard Museum is open to the public. There are no docents on duty. The Gift Shop is open and the grounds and Pavilion are available to all.
  • 5-7 pm: Fish (and Chicken!) Fry at the Cross Plains Senior Center. Pending.

Friday April 28 is a full day. I definitely want to hit the bus tour of Cross Plains and surrounding areas (9-10:45 a.m.) and see the Cross Plains public library.

The first panel, 100 Years of Weird Tales, runs from 11-noon. Guest of honor John Betancourt, publisher at Wildside Press, is one of the panelists, as is Bobby Derie, whose “Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein” email newsletter I’ve been subscribed to for some time. Looks promising.

Here’s the rest of the official programming on the 28th:. 

  • 1:30 - 2:30 pm: PANEL: The 3 Musketeers of Weird Tales: Panelists: Mark Finn, Bobby Derie, Jeff Shanks + others.
  • 2:30 - 3:30 pm PANEL: The Glenn Lord Symposium. Jason Ray Carney, Moderator. Presenters: Dierk Guenther + two others. At Cross Plains Methodist Church
  • 9 pm PANEL: Fists at the Ice House. Our perennial favorite presentation about Howard's most prolific writings, his boxing stories. Presented behind the Ice House on Main Street (next to Subway) on the concrete slab where Howard actually boxed! 

Beyond the content I’m looking forward to meeting the panelists. I’m a fan of Mark Finn’s biography of REH, Blood and Thunder, Jeff Shanks’ many essays, and Patrice Louinet’s work in the definitive Del Rey editions of Howard. I’ve corresponded with Jason Ray Carney and “met” him once via virtual seminar. Seeing and meeting all of these dudes in person will be something speical.

Saturday April 29th is also a full day:

  • 11 am - Noon: PANEL: REH and Weird Tales. Panelists: Patrice Louinet, John Betancourt, Bobby Derie, Dennis McHaney.
  • 1:30 - 2:30 pm: PANEL: The Art of Weird Tales. Panelists: Dennis McHaney, J. David Spurlock, Michael Tierney + others.
  • 2:30 - 3:30 pm: PANEL: What's Up with REH? This is our wrap-up panel, devoted to the latest news of Howard publishing, entertainment and how his influence continues. Panelists: Paul Herman, Heroic Signatures + others. 

Of course, the tour of the museum grounds by Rusty Burke (4 p.m.), BBQ, and porchlight poetry readings to wrap up the 29th are a must. 

That’s a full three days and then I head back to DFW early Sunday morning.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Meliah Rage, "Beginning of the End"

Any other Headbangers Ball fans out there?

I remember staying up late one Saturday night to watch this MTV lifeline for metalheads. I was fading, half-in, half-out of a sleep state. Exhausted from either football practice or bagging groceries.

Ricky Rachtman (or was it Adam Curry?) teed up Meliah Rage and I came to, quick. Instant smelling salts.

"Beginning of the End" has a great hook of a riff, a nice guitar solo around the 1:35 mark. Simple, powerful lyrics. Basic structure, no frills, all power. No subtlety; it needs none.

Old school thrash, gotta love it.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Viking and dark age art, Tom Barber

Some cool images by the great Tom Barber, posted here with his permission.

All painted and sold in the dim past, I am told.

Says Tom, It was Cornwell who introduced me to the shield wall. I painted the warriors long before I encountered him, and the painting became part of the Frank Collection.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Rhyme of the Viking Path, Robert E. Howard

Art by Tom Barber.

Reading the Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, vol. 2 (1930-1932), and encountered this poem Howard fired off in a letter to his friend Tevis Clyde Smith, circa May 1930.


I followed Asgrim Snorri's son

Around the world and half-way back,

And 'scaped the hate of Galdarthrun

Who sunk our ship off Skagerack.

I lent my sword to Hrothgar then,

His ears were ice, his heart was hard;

He fell with half his weapon-men

To our own kin at Mikligard.

And then for many a weary moon

I labored at the galley's oar

Where men grow maddened by the rune

Of row-locks clacking evermore.

But I survived the reeking rack,

The toil, the whips that burned and gashed,

The spiteful Greeks who scarred my back

And trembled even while they lashed.

They sold me on an Eastern block,

In silver coins their price was paid,

They girt me with a chain and lock -- 

I laughed and they were sore afraid.

I toiled among the olive trees

Until a night of hot desire

Brought sharp the breath of outer seas

And filled my veins with curious fire.

Then I arose and broke my chain, 

And laughed to know that I was free,

And battered out my master's brain

And fled and gained the open sea.

Beneath a copper sun a-drift

I fled the ketch and slaver's dhow, 

Until I saw a sail up-lift

And saw and knew the dragon-prow.

Oh, East of sands and moon-lit gulf,

Your blood is thin, your gods are few; 

You could not break the Northern wolf

And now the wolf has turned on you.

Now fires that light the coast of Spain

Fling shadows on the Moorish strand; 

Masters, your slave has come again, 

With torch and axe in his red hand!

You could not break the Northern wolf, And now the wolf has turned on you might top the list of badass things I've ever read. 

Can't wait to hear the porchlight poetry readings at REH Days.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Sword-and-sorcery updates: Howard Days, Flame and Crimson review

Headed to the hallowed homestead of REH...
A few items of note on the sword-and-sorcery front.

I’m headed to Howard Days! Yesterday I “locked in” with a non-refundable plane ticket and car rental. 

No turning back now. It’s official. Boston Logan to Dallas Fort Worth, April 27-30.

I’ve even got lodging lined up: I’ll be staying at an air BnB in Cisco with a couple dudes whom I’ve corresponded with, but never met in person: Deuce Richardson and Ken Lizzi. My wife is making me download a tracking app on my phone in case I wind up gagged and bound in the trunk of a car. 

Kidding, of course. I’ve spoken with Deuce on the phone and collaborated with him at The Cimmerian and now on the blog of DMR Books. He seems like a trustworthy fellow. Ken is an author with a website of his own who secured lodging for the three of us.

But I suppose if you don’t hear from me after April just assume I’m buried in the desert somewhere in the immediate radius of Cross Plains.

I plan to document the trip here on the blog, as this might prove to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip (or not). I’ve very much wanted to attend Howard Days for years, since I first heard about it via The Cimmerian. But cost and time commitments are formidable obstacles. 

I dropped $580 on airfare and another $335 on the car rental. Fortunately I was able to apply a lot of points to remove some of the sting. Three nights at the BnB split three ways looks to be another $160. 

That puts me over $1,000 and I have yet to buy beer, food, and books and other mementos. I figure I'll wind up $1,500-$2K in the hole.

But I imagine it will all be worth it when I set foot in the Howard homestead, which some have described as a near religious experience. I get to meet many of the personalities that I’ve only ever read accounts from, or seen in clips on YouTube. And see the place where it all started.

The theme for this year is 100 years of Weird Tales (first issue March 1923) so I look forward to the panels and programming, too. Weird Tales was the medium which published the majority of Howard’s stories and allowed him to earn a respectable income that outstripped his unsuspecting neighbors (until the fickle Depression Era checks ran late and unpaid obligations accumulated).

Much more to come here.

The review was kind and generous (and, not without thoughtful critique). There was a lot more in it than a typical Amazon or Goodreads review—both which I still deeply appreciate, but longer form essays are where I live.

Head over and read it. I particularly liked this observation:

I consider Flame and Crimson a case study in how the creation of a new forms distribution can cause massive change in an artform. It’s a lesson we should pay attention to in an age of rapid change in distribution and creation of media.

S&S was born in the pulps and I believe it is at its best when it bears some of the hallmarks that heritage (i.e., shortish, pulse-pounding action, and the weird). Unfortunately, today there is no comparable market to Weird Tales, though many are trying. WT not only paid its top authors a livable wage, but was permissive and experimental with form, and served as sounding board and ideas exchange between authors and fans. Genres not only grew, but were born in its pages. Today it still seems like most authors are writing multi-book epic fantasy, which holds little appeal for me.

Also this:

Always there is tension between the stasis of too much Law and the formlessness of Chaos! Too much of either is damaging and destructive. It is difficult but ideal to find the balance between a narrow and restrictive vision and one that is overly expansive. The best work within a genre is created by artists who explore the boundaries of its universe without straying into shapeless dimensions.

There is a tension of form in genre fiction. When you write for a commercial market you are faced with the pressure of reader expectations vs. authentic expression. Like the Grumpy Wizard, I enjoy fiction that pushes edges, but remains something recognizable…

… Along with stuff that is unrepentantly S&S. 

In the end, what matters most is not the boxes you check, the genre you work in, or the boundaries you cross, but the quality of the writing

Anyway, thanks Grumpy Wizard, for the non-grumpy, thoughtful discussion of F&C.

Friday, February 24, 2023

"Let it Go," Def Leppard

Sometimes you just need hair metal. Or the equivalent. Def Leppard is close enough. 

I'm a fan of Leppard up through and including Hysteria; after that they lose me. But you have to respect their ongoing commitment to musicianship and good performances, even at this point in their career. I saw them in concert last summer in a monster quadruple bill that included Motley Crue, Poison, and Joan Jett. 

Leppard was by far the tightest, best-sounding band of the four. They rocked.

"Let it Go" is a fine example of their early work, before they went ballad-heavy. This one is a fun little rocker, with lyrics that leave absolutely zero to the imagination, unless you can't fill in the "C."

Cool woman, cool eyes, you got me hypnotized
So head down, get a rhythm
Stop your stalling and your bitching
I'm rock steady, I'm still shaking
I'm ready for the taking
So make your move, yeah, make me
And get ready for the big "C"

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Dullness on the edge of rage

I used to rant a lot more here on the blog, and elsewhere. But today I find that most things in my small corner of pulp culture aren’t worth getting angry over.

These days I just can’t summon the rage anymore.

I still get angry. Very recently I’ve had my keyboard poised to write about that something that irritated me— Roald Dahl book alterations, ChatGPT-authored manuscripts spamming magazine publishers—but wound up saying, eh, fuck it. 

It’s probably because I’m getting older. I turn 50 in June, and I’m not taking testosterone injections. I’ve seen a lot, enough to know that the small stuff is not worth getting worked up over. The venom I once spat at overzealous J.R.R. Tolkien or Robert E. Howard critics has largely dried up. I’ve heard the critiques, the spats, the righteous anger; both artists remain beloved and always will be.

I think this recent change possibly limits my writing prospects. The easiest essays I’ve ever written were done in a blind heat of righteous anger and fury. Thoughtful writing is harder. And on some level I fear that maybe what I do produce will prove dull, milquetoast.

But, in general I think this is a good development. Certainly for my blood pressure, but also because I enjoy the calm that comes with a relative certainty that the world isn’t caving in. People aren’t actually coming for your old books. AI not only can’t hold a candle to good human writing, but in all likelihood the next evolution of the technology will be authentication systems that reign in the current chaos.

I also know there’s nothing I can actually do about these things, nor do I know all sides of these issues, and screaming about it with digital ink certainly won’t help. 

I can’t promise I won’t unleash a good rant now and then, but I’m going to continue to lean into positivity. If you want that stuff, Twitter serves it up 24-7.

Edit: OK, I am kind of pissed about Roald Dahl.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Remembering The Cimmerian

I own these guys, and others besides...
When I first got into this “thing” --writing about sword-and-sorcery and heroic fantasy, on the internet, and launching The Silver Key blog, more than 15 years ago—I had no idea what I was doing, or why. Only that I had a powerful urge to write about stuff I loved, and a few ideas to share. That I suppose I hoped someone, somewhere, might read. And maybe even take some amount of pleasure in, or learn something new from my scribblings.
One of the first people to take notice of this blog on any scale was the late, lamented Cimmerian website, and the editor of its accompanying print journal, Leo Grin. Back in November 2007 Grin penned a short post praising my newbie efforts. That post is now gone, but the uplift it gave me remains.

A few months later website editor Steve Tompkins emailed to ask me to join a few other writers to contribute to the relaunch of The Cimmerian website, which was moving beyond its Howardian roots to include a broader focus on heroic fantasy and J.R.R. Tolkien. 

Hell yeah. That decision took about three seconds to reach in the affirmative. Steve, I’m in.
Grin and Tompkins asked only that we post once a week and consistently hit our deadlines. That proved to be harder than expected with a full-time job that included travel. But I nailed it; I don’t think I ever missed a deadline.

Writing for the website led to my first submission for The Cimmerian print journal, which I believe was the first time I had ever been paid to write about fantasy, and, barring my work as a sports editor for a local newspaper, my first print appearance. Steve edited my piece, strengthened it significantly with some references to REH’s letters, and it went on to earn a nomination for best essay by the Robert E. Howard Foundation. I think Leo had some input on the essay as well.
The Cimmerian Journal was all killer, no filler, and served this space far better than any publication since perhaps Amra. Others have attempted similar projects and journals, most of which either faded away or failed. This should come as no surprise, given publishing reality. I have a pretty good idea of the time and effort that goes into high-quality print productions. The time required vs. the financial return just isn’t there. These efforts only work as a labor of love.

I don’t know how Grin did it but for five years he produced an incredibly high-quality, regular print journal with outstanding essays by the likes of Glenn Lord, Don Herron, and Mark Finn, reviews, recaps of Howard Days, original research, contentious and fun letters to the editor, and much more. Poetry by the likes of Richard Tierney and Darrell Schweitzer, for example. One of my favorite all-time essays, not just in the pages of The Cimmerian but favorite essays, period, was Steve Tompkins’ “The Shortest Distance Between Two Towers,” which I first read online but had to get in print. And did. It’s a wonderful comparison of J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard that appeared in vol. 3 no. 3. (March 2006).

I’ve got a few of these issues in digital format, and the following print editions:

Volume 1 Number 1, April 2004
Volume 1 Number 2, June 2004
Volume 2 Number 2, April 2005
Volume 3 Number 2, February 2006
Volume 3 Number 3, March 2006
Volume 3 Number 12, December 2006 (yeah for a time The Cimmerian was being published monthly)
Volume 5 Number 1, February 2008
Volume 5 Number 2, April 2008
Volume 5 Number 3, June 2008
Volume 5 Number 4, August 2008
Volume 5 Number 6, December 2008
My first post for The Cimmerian website, “Mourning the loss of print fantasy pubs,” appeared on Feb. 7, 2009. You can read the start of all my old posts here; I would post the first few paragraphs and then link to the rest.

This glorious golden age with The Cimmerian was cut lamentably short. Steve passed away March 23, 2009, far too young, and the world lost an utterly unique, irreplaceable voice. Steve took a backseat to no one as an essayist and walking encyclopedia of the fantastic. I think he was a genius. Deuce Richardson stepped in admirably as managing editor and our work continued, but Grin shut down the operation for good on June 11, 2010. A subsequent crappy controversy and fallout with many former authors resulted in many posts coming down, and a splintering of its archive. 

Along with the end of the website came the end of the journal, in spectacular and melodramatic fashion. Grin declared that all the back issues were going up for sale, and any remaining copies would be burned like the pagan kings of old. I never saw pictures of said burning, but am told it occurred and that there were witnesses. Grin said he wanted to honor the investment of those that bought the journal and not have their collectibles and commitment diminish in value with hundreds of remaindered copies flooding the market. Every issue of The Cimmerian was individually numbered with ink, BTW. Pretty awesome.

On the one hand I respect this decision, on the other the gesture was a little too Viking, even for my Old Norse tastes. At the time I did not have the financial wherewithal to purchase all the back issues of The Cimmerian, so I bought what I could afford based on TOCs that most interested me. 

I cried out, once, when the proverbial torch was lit, and the journal pushed flaming out to sea. I believe they are still accessible in the archives of the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, the Ray and Pat Browne Library for Popular Culture Studies at Bowling Green State University, Ohio, and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

I keep meaning to go back and repost all my old Cimmerian essays in full on the blog, and one day may still. But my voice sounded different back then, and moreover I can’t get into that same headspace. I was a different man, the world was different, and I feel they’re someone else’s words, spoken from far beyond. Or perhaps it’s because I was part of a special crew committed to writing about all things sword, sorcery, Robert E. Howard, and J.R.R. Tolkien, a fellowship that has broken up. 

Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

It was an amazing time, and one likely never to be repeated. 

A monthly print journal? We won’t see that again.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Sometime Lofty Towers, David C. Smith

There is a metaphor in this tower, for sure.
I can’t help but feel sorry for Charles Saunders, Richard Tierney, David C. Smith, and others working in the “second commercial wave” of sword-and-sorcery. Writing in the wake of the Lancer Conan Saga, the Elric DAW paperbacks, and Fritz Leiber’s “swords” series, this group of authors appeared poised to bring S&S to a new generation of readers in the late 70s and early 1980s. Only to have the bottom fall out as the decade of excess got underway.

For reasons I can’t get into here, lest I derail this review, it suddenly seemed no one wanted to read this unique blend of swashbuckling action, horror, and fell magic. By the early/mid 80s it was over for S&S, at least commercially.

For a time it seemed Smith’s writing career was over as well. After spending some years away from writing altogether and later branching out to write realistic novels and epic fantasy, Smith recently returned to sword-and-sorcery under Pulp Hero Press with Tales of Attumla (2020). 

Sometime Lofty Towers (2021) is his latest. It’s an ambitious novel that is recognizably sword-and-sorcery, but also contemplative, dark, mature, with an emphasis on exploration of character over typical fast-paced S&S plotting. 

And in my opinion, is wonderful. 

I have read some of Smith’s early material, including a few of his Oron stories and a smattering of Red Sonja, and the odd short story elsewhere. I’m hardly an authority on his body of work. But Sometime Lofty Towers is easily the best I’ve read from him.

Hamlin is a veteran of many battles and bears many scars, internal and external. The short novel (194 pages with afterward material) explores his struggles to overcome a great betrayal in his past, an ambush and the death of his comrades in a literal river of blood. The plot is essentially secondary to Hamlin’s story, but concerns the designs of the wealthy and avaricious Lady Sil who sets her sights on the native lands of the Kirangee. Sil hires a troupe of mercenaries to force out the natives at swordpoint, including Hamlin’s longtime friend-in-arms Thorem. Hamlin joins forces with the natives and so the conflict unfolds.

The book critiques colonialism and unbridled capitalism while plumbing matters of the human heart—the cancer of vengeance and vendetta, and the difficulty of letting go of painful past memories and finding peace in an unjust, cruel world.

Smith does a nice job building the culture of the Kirangee, which feels Native American but also a-historical, perhaps owing something to Robert E. Howard’s Picts. The method by which he does this reminded me of Charles Saunders’ Ilyassi from his Imaro series, complete with italicized native words that are unfamiliar but offered up in a way as to be understandable. No infodumps, Smith handles this all skillfully while telling a compelling story.

Sometime Lofty Towers contains some incredibly strong/queasy scenes of violence and brutality, including graphic depictions of torture. It reads angry, and in a helpful afterward we learn why: The story was born out of Smith’s bitterness and grief over the death of his father, who was exposed to asbestos for decades (even after the dangers of the substance were well known) and suffered for 17 years with declining health, hospitalizations, and treatment before his death in 1997.

The style of the writing is sparse and strong, which makes the reading easy. There is perhaps some sag in the middle of the novel. Looking back I think it’s when Smith moves away from Hamlin’s story and relays the unfolding external plot, which is interesting but not as compelling as Hamlin’s internal saga. When Smith returns to Hamlin for the third and final act it reaches a satisfying conclusion. There is a definite feel of Clint Eastwood’s William Munny here; Hamlin is not as rusty as the aged gunfighter we meet in Unforgiven, still every bit as vital and dangerous at 40 as he was in his youth. But he’s the equivalent of an aging, scarred gunfighter who wants to be rid of the ghosts of his past, and his memories to fall quiet. And when roused to violence is terrifying, because killing is second nature.

Overall this is the work of a mature author who has lived much and experienced life with all its griefs and disappointments and loss. When I read something like this I can’t help but wonder about REH, and whether had he managed the storms of his own clinical depression might have produced something similar in his latter years. Imagine Conan looking back on his adventures—the loss of BĂȘlit and Balthus, the betrayals of Amalrus and Strabonius--returning to Cimmeria to perhaps find some measure of peace, perhaps with Zenobia in his arms. 

Smith has demonstrated the heights to which sword-and-sorcery can aspire with Sometime Lofty Towers, which to me is a welcome return from someone who experienced personal loss and professional disappointment but emerged from these trials to offer us a rich, thoughtful story.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Kill Devil Hill, Bruce Dickinson

It's no secret I'm a Bruce Dickinson fanboy. I straight up think he might have saved heavy metal (or at least, threw me a lifeline I desperately clung to during the demoralizing grunge era).

Bruce is not only the lead singer of the world's greatest heavy metal band, but he also has an amazing side solo career. Today's Metal Friday features a wonderful cut off his 2005 solo effort Tyranny of Souls, "Kill Devil Hill."

This song is a paean to the birth of flight and Bruce's aviation obsession. Maiden is notorious for teaching history in their songs, whether you want them to or not/find it tedious or not, and this tune is no exception: 

On December 17th, 1903, the Wright Brothers launched off a downhill track in Kill Devil Hills, and their airplane flew for a full 12 seconds. These 12 seconds would prove to be revolutionary, and the first airplane had successfully taken flight. 

Bruce is in full-throated, top form on this one. The song soars, literally and figuratively, when he leans into the chorus at 1:14. 

As the wind whips over the hillside

Twenty knots over Kill Devil Hill

Steady wind blows over the sand

Twenty knots over Kill Devil Hill

If you're a Maiden fan who hasn't yet explored Bruce's solo career, get on that now. 

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Las Vegas is pretty sword-and-sorcery

Kind of like Lankhmar, but a little less stabby.
I've been to Las Vegas at least a half dozen times, all for work, and have emphatically decided that I'm a Vegas guy. Sin City is a "love it or hate it" destination, and I'm decidedly in the former camp. I would gladly visit every other year or so. Take in a show, gamble, watch the train wreck of humanity slouching down the strip, stay up late drinking until I join the train wreck of humanity slouching down the strip. 

... but only for 3 days at a stretch, after which no shower can get me clean and I need to head straight into mental and physical detox. Which is all very sword-and-sorcery.

Anyways, I'm back after three nights at the Palms Casino Resort for a healthcare conference. I managed to fit in some fun, including 3-4 hours of gambling my last night there. I set a cheap $100 cap and was up as much as $155 at the blackjack table, gave about all of that back at roulette, and called it a night after breaking even.

In addition, the long flights from my home on the east coast to the west and back again afforded me some rare sustained reading time that I took advantage of.

I managed to finish That Hideous Strength, the third and final volume of C.S. Lewis' space trilogy, which I started this year and can now cross off the bucket list. I feel rather guilty saying it, considering how celebrated these books are, but they didn't do a whole lot for me. Some great ideas in here, but I found the execution lacking. Lewis left a lot of drama on the table and it was all too dialogue-heavy, even plodding in places. But, I loved the concepts and appreciated the modern-day parallels with N.I.C.E. (the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments).

On the way back I started reading David C. Smith's Sometime Lofty Towers and man, this is simultaneously grim, dark, personal, and well-done, at least through the first 60 pages. Looking forward to finishing it and giving it a proper review.

On the subject of reviews, I have admittedly not kept up with contemporary S&S and am planning to rectify that this year. Here is a partial list of works I either want to purchase and read, or already have purchased and are part of my 2023 TBR list:
  • Worlds Beyond Worlds, John Fultz
  • The Penultimate Men: Tales from Our Savage Future (Schuyler Hernstrom and others)
  • Sometime Lofty Towers, David C. Smith
  • Arminius Bane of Eagles, Adrian Cole
  • Frolic on the Amaranthyn, Chase Folmar
  • A Gathering of Ravens, Scott Oden
  • Swords of the Four Winds, Dariel Quiogue
  • S&S magazines including New Edge #0 (full read), and my backlog of Tales from the Magician’s Skull issues
As previously noted I've started the year with S.M. Stirling's Blood of the Serpent.

I also backed the New Edge kickstarter (and recommend you do too), and am 100% confirmed for Robert E. Howard Days, with lodging lined up. 

More on that later, once I complete my Vegas detox.

Friday, January 27, 2023

RUSH--Show Don't Tell (Live)

Today's Metal Friday is not really metal... but close enough, and IDGAF. It's Rush, and they get to call the shots.

This choice is drenched in nostalgia. I'm a big Rush fan, and my first concert experience with them was the Presto tour. I'm old enough to remember them looking and sounding like this. Still have the t-shirt too, although were I to put it on it would look like someone spray-painted it on my body.

How's this for old school--I bought Presto (the tape) from a Columbia House deal--buy 12 tapes for a penny, then cancel, and chuckle. Rinse and repeat until Columbia catches on. 

You know the deal. 

Still have the same tape, in fact. Still think Presto is an amazing album, an underappreciated gem from their catalog. So many good songs to choose from that album but I'm going with the opener here. I actually prefer Presto (the song) and The Pass, and possibly Superconductor, but this one is harder and at least brushes up to the edges of being metal.

Video is not cooperating so you can view it here on YouTube.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

The subjectivity of star ratings

What do you consider to be a five-star book (on a rating of 1-5 stars)? Or a one star book?

Is the former a book that you couldn’t put down? Or that covers its subject comprehensively and in impeccable detail? Or that is an acknowledged classic (but you didn’t necessarily enjoy)?

Is the latter a book that is badly written? Or maybe you could not finish? Or is it in a genre in which you have zero interest? Or, perhaps its even an acknowledged classic that you could not comprehend, and threw down in frustration.

It could be any one of these, which is why star ratings are so subjective as to be almost useless.

I used to rate books on a scale of 1-5 stars but eventually stopped the practice because I didn’t have a firm set of criteria that measured quality. For example, I once thought only a handful of the very best all-time books (The Lord of the Rings, Watership Down) etc. could earn a 5-star rating, which meant that other awesome books or stories could only earn a lesser rating. In short, I was grading on a curve. But this doesn’t really work; how can you possibly compare The Rise of the Fall of the Third Reich (a 5-star history if there ever was one) to The Lord of the Rings. If I found the latter more enjoyable to read, can the former only ever a achieve a 4 or 4.5 rating? Kind of nonsense.

So, I abandoned star ratings.

And yet, for some unexplainable reason I brought back a star rating for my recent review of Blood of the Serpent. But as I evaluate my 3.5 stars for that book, I realized my rating was not based on any objective measure of quality, but purely on whether the book met my expectations for a prose relaunch of Conan. It didn’t quite, hence the 3.5. But you might find it did for you, and give it a 5 (or didn’t at all, and rate it a 2).

If you look at Amazon or Goodreads reviews you will find that they do not correlate highly with quality, but what I do think they represent is the expectations the reader brings to the book.

For example, Moby Dick rates at a 4.4 while the Da Vinci Code is a 4.6. Does that make the latter better? Perhaps, but it probably means some bored high school students took out their frustration on the former (they wanted Jaws or The Meg, but their expectations were unmet). Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword rates a 4.2, below the sixth volume of 50 Shades of Gray (which rates a whopping 4.8/5). But most likely that’s because its readers got the S&M they wanted in 50 Shades of Gray, as opposed to readers who came to The Broken Sword expecting Brandon Sanderson length epic fantasy. And rated it lower. 

This is a roundabout way of saying that thoughtful individual reviews are superior than the aggregate of a thousand star ratings. 

Monday, January 23, 2023

Blood of the Serpent: Is the New Conan Novel Really Conan?

This past weekend I finished the new Conan novel, S.M. Stirling's Blood of the Serpent. And wrote a brief review which you can find on the blog of DMR Books.

The TL;DR version should you not want to spare the click: 3.5/5 stars. I liked it, found it to be a well-written page turner, but not the terrific relaunch of authorized Conan prose fiction I wished it to be. I had high expectations, only partially met.

Have you read this? If so would be curious to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Top 5 Manowar Songs

Metal Friday is a day late this week but coming in hot, ready to smash your face in with the death tone of amplified guitars and massive hammers of war.

Most metal album cover ever?  Probably.

Manowar is everything I love about sword-and-sorcery and heavy metal, in one glorious Ken Kelly infused package. Badass. Ridiculous. In your face. Muscular. Offensive. Fun. So over the top you’re not sure if it’s all tongue-in-cheek… then realizing it’s not, and then going “holy shit, OK” and leaning into it. Embracing the fact that life need not be cynical, or subtle. That it’s OK to like loud and obnoxious and even dumb things. 

Yes Manowar has a few ridiculous songs … and I love those too.

Here are five guaranteed to raise my testosterone levels to the level of the occupants of a Viking longship circa 9th century AD, and get me ready to fight the world. Whilst eating beef and drinking ale.

Warriors of the World. The first comment on Youtube is I just played this song for my 4 week old son. He’s now 40 and a navy seal. Manowar has this effect, I've seen it. Probably their ultimate anthem.

Hail and Kill. By Divine Right, this one rips.

Fighting the World. I’ve been fighting the world every fucking day for nigh 50 years and will keep doing so… stripes on a tiger don’t wash away.

Master of the Wind. Manowar can do wistful ballads too … infused with mighty power. Manly tears. Might be played at my funeral.  

The Sons of Odin. Love the groove in this one, hits you in the face from the opening beat and never lets up. Sword and axe sound effects. Valhalla I am coming, open the door.  

Honorable mentions: "Mountains," "Carry On" 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

New Edge Magazine kickstarter--get in on it

The sword-and-sorcery renaissance/modest revival continues. There is a lot going on in S&S circles these days, and I admit I'm behind in keeping up with many of the developments. I'll be doing my best to correct that this year.

One of the new projects I AM up on is New Edge sword-and-sorcery magazine. New Edge launched issue #0 last September to test the waters for a periodical that both embraces old S&S and expands its boundaries, and now has launched a kickstarter to fund issues #1 and #2. 

Signing up to be notified has extra value, including a first day physical backer exclusive: a bookmark featuring original art by Sapro (see above, this dude has some game. Love this piece).

I had an essay in issue #0, "The Outsider in Sword-and-Sorcery." I still owe a full read and review of the complete contents of this issue, but was impressed with Cora Buhlert's essay "C.L. Moore and Jirel of Joiry: The First Lady of Sword & Sorcery."

The kickstarter launches Feb. 2 and will cover production costs of issues 1 and 2. As well as paying the artists and authors... of which I'm one! I'm going to have an essay in issue #1, and as I understand it there will be a couple of much bigger names than my own contributing fiction.

I can't tip hand any more than that. Some cool stuff going on here.

Sign up for the updates and decide for yourself if this is something you want to back. I hope it smashes its goals. We need more good S&S.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

The big Excalibur post

Up on the blog of DMR Books is the big Excalibur post I've been meaning to write for years. 2K words about not just one of my favorite fantasy films of all time, but top 10 favorite films of any genre. It's also my attempt to analyze what director John Boorman's vision and objective was with this film, why the King Arthur myth endures, and what it can still teach us today. Why we need the old stories, and our inherited mythologies, which we abandon at our peril.

I think many viewers get hung up on Excalibur's sometimes stilted and declarative dialogue, the historical anachronisms, etc., and are too quick to dismiss what I believe is a masterpiece (YMMV). I've watched many subsequent King Arthur films that embrace more traditional filmmaking techniques, but none have managed to do what Excalibur did, which is render myth on screen for a modern audience.

Check it out here

Fellow DMR blogger Deuce Richardson has pointed me in the direction of a "making of" documentary on Excalibur, "Behind the Sword in the Stone," which I shall view next:

Finally, I'm glad Excalibur has resisted remakes some 42 years after its debut. I welcome new King Arthur films, but not a remake.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Bible Black, Heaven and Hell

The late Ronnie James Dio pulled off something of a miracle with the release of The Devil You Know in 2009. Dio was 66 years old, had only 13 months to live, but somehow and he and the aged members of Heaven and Hell (aka, Black Sabbath) put together one final terrific Sabbath album. Much better than 13 IMO.

I love this entire album, but my favorite song is "Bible Black." I dig the atmospheric spoken word intro .. but strap on your jockstrap for 1:30 when it kicks in with a dark, heavy, murky, stoner groove that is everything I love about the Black Sabbath sound. It is the Black Sabbath sound, because a lineup that includes Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Dio is Sabbath.

Crank this son of a bitch and enjoy your Friday.

Let me go
I've seen religion but the light has left me blind
Take me back
I must have the Bible Black

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Railing against AI art

I hate computer generated art* and worry very deeply about what a future dominated by artificial intelligence will look like. Both for artists, consumers, observers, fans, and anyone who cares about human creativity in general.

One of the regular YouTubers I enjoy watching is Rick Beato. Rick serves up long form, in depth interviews with artists whose work I admire (recently Sting, and Billy Corgan for example). He attracts great guests because he’s not a quack, or a conspiracy theorist. His large following (3.3M) appreciates his candor, personality, passion, and sharp insights into what makes certain songs, albums, or artists great. Moreover through his talent he replicates many of those sounds in the studio with a guitar or keyboard.

But in his most recent video he touches on something that has occupied my mind more and more these days. “How Auto-Tune Destroyed Popular Music” includes a discussion of generative artificial intelligence music companies set to unleash music wholly made by AI. “The selling point of generative AI is that no musical knowledge or training is necessary. Anyone can potentially create a hit song with the help of computers that evolve with each artificially produced guitar lick or drum beat,” Beato says.

Yuck. Sounds fucking awful.

A quick recap of where we’re at:

  • Humans can prompt AI programs (i.e., Midjourney, etc.) to generate pictures, for example sword-and-sorcery images that look a lot like something Frank Frazetta or Ken Kelly might have created, while also being something new. Many of these are pretty good.
  • ChatGPT is authoring stories with just a few prompts. Not as good, often poor, but in some cases passable… and this technology will get better.

I fail to see how any of this is good for art.

The argument about “democratizing music” is horseshit. Yeah, let’s bypass the cost of having to pay for a studio drummer and democratize the cost of a recording studio for the struggling musician… but now let’s cut out the song writer and the singer as well, and proceed straight to entering prompts in a computer.

My best friend’s son is just starting to learn the guitar. Even though he’s just 13 he’s gotten pretty good… because he’s put in hours of practice. It’s awesome to watch him grow, but also fair to ask: Why bother, kid?

Are human beings supposed to consume computer developed art, and embrace it with our soul (if you believe we have one, and are not just flesh and blood robots)?

What about guys like Beato? Are they supposed to analyze computer generated art? Who are they going to talk to… some nerd who input the prompts, or the software engineer who designed the program? Or maybe some version of HAL 9000?

At that point, why have humans at all? Should we just accept our robot overlords?

Where is the place for high, noble art in all of this?

The real crime is that all of these algorithms are based off mass data that is taken from original work by human beings who will never be acknowledged or compensated for their efforts. Google has floated a repeated claim that all information should be “free,” and all of the world’s library digitized. But they and a handful of other large corporations are the ones getting rich from this process. Beato asks the same: “Really the only question is, who gets paid for it? Who are the songwriters? Are they the programmers that program it?”

And this is just art. No one is really talking about deep fakes, and the destruction of what is truthful through the production of fake news, and the subsequent loss of our grasp on reality.

I think AI has amazing potential for improving the quality of human lives, and in many ways already has. If an AI can detect cancers unseen by a radiologist’s eye, that’s a technology I want deployed STAT. I’m in favor of self-driving cars that reduce the human error that leads to most roadway fatalities. Let’s get cheap self-driving cars out there, even if they cost drivers’ jobs.

But art? Art is not a tool; art is created by humans and enjoyed by humans. Creating art, and putting in the hours to do so, is a meaningful act, i.e., meaning-generative. It’s one of the few refuges of meaning we have left. What’s the point of art without a human mind behind it, guiding its creation?

Call me an old fart but a world where we consume AI generated art is not one I want to live in. I’m glad I have my old CDs and will just sit in my corner and listen to them. And go see cover bands that cover the old shit I like while refusing to auto-tune their voices.

I have tried to embrace new tech, and have (laptop, cell phone, reasonably modern car) but general AI seems to me a bridge too far, and one we should not cross--at least without some serious thinking about the economics and societal impact.

Yup, first post of 2023 and I’m officially an Old Man Who Shouts at Cloud.

*I make an exception for CGI, etc. that adds detail to sets and supplements the work of human actors.