Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Con, A Panel, H.P. Lovecraft, & Robert E. Howard

This past Memorial Weekend I spent two nights and three days at Comicpalooza in Houston, TX. I did manage to travel home just before that massive rain storm hit. I feel for that city and the people there.

There's two reasons why I've enjoyed attending Comicpalooza for the past three years.

First, they usually book some very good comic book artists/writers: Mike Mignola, Kevin Eastman, David Mack, George Perez, Stan Lee, Basil Gogos, Walt Simonson, Gail Simonson, etc.

Second, in the past they have usually had some very good panels to attend. This was not so much the case this year. Although, there were two panels this year I did attend. Both were very enjoyable. The first was called Essential Horror: The Books You Should be Reading and Essential SF: The Sci-Fi You Must Read. The first panel is the topic of this post.

To be honest, I do not remember all the panelists on the Essential Horror panel, except one: Richard Klaw. He was in the middle of the table wearing an ape T-shirt that I recognized right when I walked into the room. The T-shirt was the cover of the book he edited titled The Apes of Wrath. The reason I recognized the shirt/book cover was because I own a copy and Mark Finn contributed to the volume.

In a quite interesting way the panelists discussed their favorite horror novels, as well as those they claim were horror novels (or at least had horror elements in them) but were not technically classified as horror per se. Some authors mentioned I had never heard of (no surprise there since horror is not my favorite genre, even though I really enjoy reading various authors in that genre), and some I had already read. As time passed, I realized that the one author who should have at least been mentioned in this panel was not mentioned . . . yet. The elephant in the room.

Back & Front covers of The Apes of Wrath
Then, one of the final questions asked by an attendee was, "Can you all list off some of your favorite horror writers." Several names were thrown out there until one attendee piped up and named the elephant. "What about H.P. Lovecraft?"

The room fell silent, the panelists looked around at each other, and then Richard Klaw spoke up. "If you all don't mind, I'll address this first," he said. "Frankly, I don't care for H.P. Lovecraft."

"Why?" the same attendee piped up and asked. "Well, because I think Lovecraft's writing does not get to the point in horror. He's all over the map. You get characters, you get a little bit of story, but you really don't get much that grabs you. There's not a whole lot underneath it all, and he doesn't go anywhere with his creatures."

The room was silent, for a few seconds. In my mind, I was really hoping Robert E. Howard was going to be brought up. And just as I thought that, Klaw stated, "From that era of writing, Robert E. Howard's stories are far better, I think."

I wondered what Klaw was going to say, if anything about Howard; especially since Red Shadows is included in his edited collection. Although, I did not fully agree with Klaw's assessment of Lovecraft, I did agree with what he had to say about Howard. Not that I think Howard is a better writer than Lovecraft (I'm not going to play the better/worse game here because they are quite different writers), even though some of Howard's work is, in my opinion, far better.

One of the other panelists did not feel quite as negative about Lovecraft and spent a little time defending the importance of his work. Personally, I think this made the panel that much better. It at least helped balance out opinions/views.

If you have not already picked up a copy of Richard Klaw's edited volume, The Apes of Wrath, then I highly recommend it. One of the works that Klaw mentioned as a work way ahead of its time is in the volume: Quidquid Volueris by Gustav Flaubert. There's also stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Clark Ashton Smith, Joe R. Lansdale, Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Kafka, Mark Finn, Philip Jose Farmer, and others.


Rick Klaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick Klaw said...

Thanks for this, especially the kind words about Apes. Though I'm pretty sure my original statements about HPL were far more vitriolic.

And it's Louise (not Gail) Simonson.

All the best,


Todd B. Vick said...

Hey Rick. Yes, my bad - Louise Simonson/Gail Simone. I cannot recall your comments being that malicious. Regardless, the panel was well worth the time spent. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Take care,