(In honor of the commemoration each June of Texas writer Robert E. Howard, today’s guest blogger is Mark Finn, author of Blood & Thunder: The Life & Art of Robert E. Howard, available at www.amazon.com/. The biography of Howard was a finalist for the 2007 Locus Awards for Best Non-Fiction. For Mark’s interview at a previous REH gathering, see www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYfT3CNHhoU/. He blogs at http://marktheaginghipster.blogspot.com/.)
There are fan gatherings and then there are fan gatherings. Conventions come in all shapes and sizes, and the best conventions will give fans a chance to rub shoulders with their favorite actors or authors or illustrators and maybe come away with a personalized keepsake.
But no matter how great or comprehensive a convention may be, one cannot just show up at, say, Skywalker Ranch, and demand a tour. In fact, it’s very rare when a fan gathering takes place in the space of the creator whose work we all enjoy. Imagine what it would be like to stand outside the room where your favorite author created all of his most famous stories and characters....and then say hello to Robert E. Howard Days in Cross Plains, Texas.
Held during the second week of June every year (this year, next Friday and Saturday, June 8-9) the Annual REH Days gathering coincides with the Barbarian Festival, a local carnival and fair in the small town of Cross Plains, Texas. Friends and neighbors from all over enjoy the parade and the music and of course, the food; everything from funnel cakes to chicken on a stick and all of that great fair-food is available to sample as you stroll through the booths filled with local artisans and their wares.
However, the star of the show is the erstwhile Robert E. Howard himself, the creator of Conan the Cimmerian and so many other memorable characters and stories. His house has been preserved and restored and is now on the national registry of historic places. Inside, fans can see original artifacts from the Howard house, along with rare photos, collectibles, and more. During Howard Days, docents man each room to greet visitors and point out the significant features and history of the room.
You can even stand in the doorway of Robert’s room, and see a replica of the typewriter he used, and contemplate which of your favorite stories he wrote just a few feet away from where you’re standing. It’s awesome in that you can’t get any closer to Howard than you are right then.
Not surprisingly, this annual gathering draws the cream of the crop in Howard studies, as well as uber-fans who travel from around the world, and across the country, to hang out, hobnob with fellow fans, and revel in the family reunion-like atmosphere. A pilgrimage to the Howard house is something every REH fan must do in their lifetime.
For more information about this year’s Howard Days, visit
www.rehupa.com and click on the Howard Days 2012 link. Hope to see you there!