Two-Gun Bob: The “Great Extinction” Clock

Okay. I’m calling it.

Time to set the clock on the Great Extinction Event.

I was thinking about what little note to post today in acknowledgment of the birth of Robert E. Howard one hundred and thirteen years ago, when Brian Leno — a.k.a. The Haunter of eBay — sent me a link to the sale of mailing 187 of REHupa for June 2004. Brian observed that the seller had “a few of these” — meaning various REHupa mailings — “from the estate of Carl Osman, whoever he was”.

REHupa — in full, the Robert E. Howard United Press Association — itself has been around for forty-seven years. I’ve pulled a couple of stints, first in the early days from mlg 11 to mlg 16, I think it was, then later from circa mlg 93 or 94 till mlg 103 or 104, in there. The most recent mailing at this writing was numbered 274 for December 2018.

The seller clearly was unfamiliar with apas, thought it might be only a copy, because the individual members send in bizarrely variegated zines to be stapled together — they can come in as mere photocopies or the best desktop publishing has to offer. Even — more so in the old days — done on mimeograph. But he suspected (rightly) he probably had “an original issue” because “it came from the estate auction of Carl Osman who is listed as one of the 30 names in the Roster of REHUPA.”

At any given point over all these years, REHupa could have up to thirty members (a nod to REH’s lifespan, 1906-1936). And while some people hold down roster slots year after year, many come and go within months.

The seller notes that he isn’t a professional book seller, and that “most of the things I sell, came from an auction, flea market, estate sale or rummage sale.”

To recap: the news doesn’t sound good for Carl Osman.

I asked current REHupan Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes — one of those guys who has been on the Roster for year after year, even once serving as the Official Editor — about Osman.

Morgan said, “Carl was a school librarian from Texas back in the early 00’s. He was older. Not surprised he is gone. Had not heard of him in a while. I think he was from Wisconsin originally. I remember talking to him at Pulp Con about Wisconsin German serial killers. He sent me a VHS tape of a movie about Ed Gein.”

Another current REHupan, Leo Grin — veteran of a couple of stints, better known for the Howardian zine The Cimmerian and currently The Cimmerian Press — recalled his fellow apahack: “Good old Carl Osman. Met him at Howard Days in 2000. Retired librarian from Oklahoma, looked like a hobbit, was in the apa circa 1999-2001 or so, when I started the first time. Famous for his hilariously bad fiction series titled ‘Tales of Taul,’ with Taul being a Thongor-style Conan clone. Tompk used to get a lot of mileage from his Osman/Taul jokes to me in private email. As I recall he left the apa because things were getting too nasty, he was one of the ‘can’t we all just be nice’ types.”

REHupa of course is a hotbed of controversy, members constantly arguing about stuff, trying to get other members expulsed, the works. Decades of the works.

Tompk of course was, in full, Steve Tompkins, another REHupan and Howardian essayist and wag. I’ve mentioned before that we credit Tompk with the concept of The Great Extinction Event in Howard Fandom, which is to say that there must come a year when the fan base of scholars and mag publishers and even REHupa members who arrived on the scene from, say, the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies, begin dropping like flies.

And to be an Event, you need a lot of folk to tumble by the wayside, not just one guy here and another guy three years later.

Last year looked ripe for the kickoff. I came close, with triple-bypass surgery in April (and man, would I have made one hell of a boom for the starter pistol). Another guy was rumored to be near the end, another had a heart attack with one artery 100% blocked (weenie — I had two arteries 100% blocked and another 80% blocked — have to say it slowed me down). Morgan had some kind of episode that made him worried for a couple of minutes.

(Now, Morgan technically is too young to fit into the control group envisioned by Tompk, but as the only Howard scholar nominated for a Hugo Award I think he’s prominent enough so that if he kicked off, we’d have to count him.)

Any or all of us could have been gone, but medical science put the brakes on it.

You’d think someone could at least step in front of a car or something. . . .

Since I’m tired of waiting, I call Carl Osman, late of REHupa, as the starting point. Don’t know exactly when he died — jeez, for that matter, I don’t know he’s dead, but that usually happens before an estate gets dispersed.

If nothing much follows on the extinction front, I’ll apologize later. If Carl is still alive, ditto.

And for Morgan’s consideration: are we going to see a paragraph or two about The Tales of Taul in the massive history of Sword-and-Sorcery fiction The Morgman is now slaving over?

Morgan is in the trenches this month with the section about Robert E. Howard. He’ll cover all the paperback originals of the S&S boom of the seventies and after. Leiber. Moorcock. Lots of S&S paperbacks to put under the microscope.

But will Morgan mention all the people who joined REHupa seemingly just to have an outlet for their endless amateur barbarian fantasies? Aside from the constant fights, the wretched fanfic is one of my strongest memories of REHupa.

Should Taul and his REHupan ilk get a cite in the official record?

Or just show up on occasion as part of old mailings on the block at eBay?

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