Mort: Tompk, Anniversary Three

Keeping the Memorial March theme rolling, it’s hard to believe that Steve Tompkins passed away three years ago at the age of 48. I was supposed to write some sort of long review for the upcoming issue 13 of Two-Gun Raconteur, for summer 2009 release, but instead suggested that the space be used as a tribute section for Steve, and so it was. . . . Still the best memorial to good old Tompk, so far.

There was talk about doing a collection of his ten best essays, to appear immediately, but of course that was just talk. Leo Grin also has plans to do a larger collection, which would include selections from the Tompkins fanzines released as part of the Robert E. Howard United Press Association — zines where Steve would start essays, do two or three sections, then get distracted by the next essay, and the next, plus go on and on with comments. To get the complete picture, you’d need to pull from that stuff, but editing out coherent selections might be almost impossible. I was just suggesting to Leo that he might consider doing a PDF file or DVD of the Complete Tompk Zines, let people wade in on their own, absorb as much as they want while getting the full experience.

As a gesture for this anniversary, I finally sat down and read the intro Tompkins did for the Del Rey Kull: Exile of Atlantis — “Kull, who returns the stare of Deep Time and dares the stair. . . .” Yeah, a typical Tompk pun in the first paragraph. That’s probably what stopped me the first time. There’s some good stuff in this intro, of course, and it is shorter than much of what Steve wrote, but I was thinking, If you’ve never read Robert E. Howard before, you’re not going to understand most of what he’s talking about here.

I understood it, but as I wrote in TGR I prefer leaner and cleaner than the sort of sprawling magnum opus Tompkins liked to spin out. But that’s who he was, and at age 48 he was already set in his writing ways. He could have filled up thousands more pages by now, I have no doubt.


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