Thursday, April 9, 2009

Giants of the Earth (part 1)

It was just the other day that I learned of the passing of Steven Tompkins. Regular readers of The Cimmerian will of course recognize Steve’s name, as his essays fill their electronic tomes, but there maybe some of my readers that have not had a chance to read through his works. I never met him, I never exchanged emails with him, I only knew him through is writing, and his writing was something special. I remember my 10th grade World Literature teacher told us that one’s writing gives insight into what is deep inside a person. Writing is a special expression of a person, and some folks just have a special touch with the written words, and Steve was one of those guys.

Steve’s depth of knowledge on sword and sorcery, high fantasy, science fiction, mythology and film was nothing short of amazing. His ability to weave multiples sources around a single theme was truly a unique talent that few possess. He could wield the quill like the heroes of old could wield their great axes. It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword, and the way he crafted his trade, left no doubt as to the caliber of writer that he was.

While the main thrust of The Cimmerian was to support the works of Robert Howard, Steve made it a point to champion numerous authors like Martin, Tolkien and Lovecraft, just to name a few. My favorite of his essays were the ones on Tolkien, as I count myself as a huge fan of the late professor, and one of my greatest disappointments will be that I will never get a chance to hear Tolkien speak on mythology and his more famous works. It is my belief that Tolkien was a very special author, and know that Steve was firmly in this camp as well. His essays on Middle Earth are just stunning, and really bring out the brilliance that was embedded in his works. Steve’s ability to turn a phrase and bring in an unexpected reference was just a thing of beauty.

The tag line for The Crimmerian web site is, “A website and shieldwall for Robert E. Howard, J.R.R. Tolkien and the Best in Heroic Fantasy, Horror and Historical Adventure.” I would argue that Steve was the anchor of that shieldwall. All the bloggers that log their craft there are very talented, but Steve just took it to another level. That is not a slight to folks like Brian and Leo, but rather just shows just how impressive Steve was.

Some of his more recent essays that I enjoyed are as follows:

1) An Early, Albeit Pagan, Christmas in the Old North
2) Lonely Mountain, Crowded Expectations; Or, Prelude as Successor
3) Long Ago, Far Away, and So Much Better Than It Is Today
4) Glaurung and Smaug Make Room for Fafnir

Several of the bloggers at The Crimmerian had wrote tributes to Steve and I will link them here, as they are very good.

Brian Murphy: Bidding farewell to the heroic heart of Steve Tompkins
Duece Richardson: His Like Will Not Be Here Again

As a final thought, the figures in heroic fantasy are always a bit larger than life. Their epic tales are a bard’s dream come true when it comes to weaving yarn to delight all within ear shot. Some of the heroes are tragic, and it is what allows us to identify with them, as not everything goes our way in life. The storm will come, and it is through this storm that character is made. There are a number of us that recognize this and see the human elements in these stories, which is why we keep coming back to them. Steve recognized the inherit value in these stories and made it a passion to express this through his writing.

Here is hoping that even as I write this, you will be swapping bardic tales with those that have gone before you. We will miss you.


Brian Murphy said...

Great post Bret. Steve was the anchor of The Cimmerian web site and there was some talk among the rest of us whether to continue or just shut it down. We decided to keep writing, as the bard's tales should go on. But it will be a lesser site without him.

Steve's essays took some work to read and weren't for the casual web-surfer, but there was gold in every one.

Mr Baron said...


Thanks for the comments. I am glad to see that you guys are going to continue with the Crimmerian site, as I enjoy reading the blog entries.

I agree with you on Steve's essays. They were brilliant, but they were not for the faint of heart. I really enjoyed them.