It has been just over a week since I learned of the deaths of Jon McCowan and Steve Tompkins. It is bitter news and still hard to understand. I offer my depest condolences to their families.
Joan McCowan was one of the great ladies of Cross Plains. Her kindly smile was one of the special pleasures of a visit to that town. She gave so much in kindness and support to the fans who traveled to Cross Plains on their pilgrimages to the hometown of Robert E. Howard. Journeys that were about a writer, who is long-gone though his writing is with us still, became about the town, a living place filled with the resilient people of rural Texas.
Joan's passing was not unexpected. The gathering in her honor in December last year was something in the nature of a farewell. I only hope that Joan knew how much she meant to us.
The loss of Steve Tompkins was an unexpected shock. We only met once at World Fantasy Con 2006. How I wish we had more chances to talk. Steve was well-known as a critic of great talent and breadth of learning in the field of REH fandom (dare I say studies, for if anyone gave that high-sounding epithet to the readers of old-time pulp fantasy, it was Steve with his scholarly grasp of literature). He introductions to Kull: Exile of Atlantis and The Black Stranger honor the author and his creations with lively, insightful commentary. Steve's essays were a delight, something I eagerly scanned The Cimmerian blog for. They were lively excursions into the hidden connections of pop-culture, history, myth, books, film, and anything else. They made me run eagerly to the library to study up on Steve's latest topic. That is what Steve did for me, he gave a sense of adventure and excitement in scholarship. Sgteve's own words will show that far better than I can. A small sample follows below.
Sticking to the Poe-Boy Diet
What a Mummer Wild, What an Insane Child
Something to Do with Deathlessness, Part Two: Eyes We Dare Not Meet in Dreams
Grinning, Unappeased Aboriginal Demons