East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Translating myself – slowly


220px-Robert_E._Howard_in_1923Back in 2009 I planned, almost completed and partially published a cycle of three alternate history stories centered on the character of Robert E. Howard, with H.P. Lovecraft as a co-star.

In The Ballad of Bobbie Howard, I imagined a universe in which both the author of Conan and the Providence Recluse are women.

Then, in The Shape of Things to Come (yes, I know, not very original, as a title), I imagined a universe in which both Howard and Lovecraft surviving their early demises, and living a long and productive life – REH as a Hollywood screenwriter and HPL as the director of Weird Tales.

Finally, in Lone Star, I wrote about a balkanizad post-depression America, in which Texas rebels led by Howard face their final showdown against the troops of President Lovecraft, leader of the pretty fascistic Eastern Coalition.

In terms of themes, I wanted to explore the weight and impact of two of my favorite authors in different circumstances.
I thought out that a female Robert Howard would have been, probably, more resilient and pro-active, less prone to melancholia.
I dreamed of a world in which the ideas of my beloved pulp writers (HPL, REH and all the others, Hamilton, Brackett, Leiber, Kuttner…) actually created a better world.
And I wanted to set the Lovecraftian view of the universe at arms against the Howardian view of civilization – have the two authord debating not in letters, but on the battlefield.

And I wanted to have fun, of course.

The first two stories were published by the literary magazine LibriNuovi, and received good feedback, and no end of hate mail.
In particular, some “true believers” took exception at the depiction of their favorite author as “a chick” in Bobbie Howard, and at REH marrying “a Jewess” in Things to Come.
A good friend of mine still misses no chance to point out that REH himself would have punched me in the face for the first of those stories.

Now, many years later, I realize that such a violent reaction is a testimony to the fact that my stories did strike a nerve – I caused a reaction in my readers, which means I did do something right, after all.
But back then, my disappointment at the reaction of some readers was such, I shelved the last story in the cycle, and it still lays here somewhere on my hard disk. I was a littlelet down, at the time, andΒ I did not want a rabble of fantasy fans to storm my house with torches and pitchforks, to burn me at the stake as a heretic.

Now, during the last weekend, my friends Marina and Angelo, and a few others, did catch The Shape of Things to Come, and suggested I should translate the story in English, and circulate it.

As a matter of fact, Bobbie Howard was translated, back in 2009, as some friends in Japan wanted to read it.
I should simply clean up the translation, and ask for a revision to a friend.
And curiously enough, I did translate the first half of Things to Come.
So now I might just finish the job.
And maybe complete once and for all my “Howard as Mal Reynolds” story.
And then see if the stuff can be published somehow.

More work on my plate.
I like keping myself busy.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

5 thoughts on “Translating myself – slowly

  1. I’ll repeat myself, but yes, I do think translating those stories (and finishing Lone Star) is the thing to be done. They deserve better than gathering electronic dust in a hadr drive πŸ™‚
    Oh, and the ending paragraphs of The Shape of Things To Come? I loved it, they were deeply moving. Good job, now go and translate! πŸ˜‰


  2. Speaking as a Robert E. Howard/H.P. Lovecraft fan, I’d be very interested in reading your alternate history stories, particularly that last one, since REH and HPL’s views on fascism were obviously at odds and would lend themselves to an interesting thought experiment. I actually disagree that REH would’ve punched you out for depicting him as a woman: he had a bit more confidence in his manhood than to take offence at that. Then again, nobody really *could* know what REH’s reaction would be, since REH isn’t here to tell us.

    In any case, there is no way on earth anything you wrote could’ve been worse than Robert Silverberg’s risible “Gilgamesh in the Outback,” and it won a bloody Hugo. And Mark Finn, author of “Blood and Thunder,” wrote a story where the ghost of REH actively conspires to *murder* several filmmakers making a mess of an adaptation of his work. REH fans are composed of a wide variety of backgrounds, affiliations, beliefs and politics, so for every fan offended by the stories, I’m sure there’d be one who found it interesting.


    • Thanks for the comment!
      I’m slowly working on the last story, as I’d like to do a good job of depicting REH and HPL as politicians.
      As for the fans – yes, thankfully we are a varied lot.
      And one can’t please everybody every time.
      Authors are not supposed to please their readers – they are supposed to hit them where it hurts πŸ˜‰


  3. I believe that you can get a very good reaction to those stories of yours. So, go back to your desk and translate like there’s no tomorrow. You can always sue me if it doesn’t work.


  4. I loved Bobbie Howard, and the little snippet of Things To Come I saw. I think they will translate very well to English.
    Go ahead and let us know!
    And whistle, if you need a spare set of editorial eyes… πŸ™‚


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