In Memoriam: Steve Tompkins

Deuce Richardson asked me to write something about Steve Tompkins and I honestly didn’t feel up to it.

With all due respect to Steve, I couldn’t see how I could add anything essential to any conversation about the man and his work.  Aside from swapping comments on a couple message boards I never communicated directly with the guy, never really knew him as a person. 

But I knew his voice.  It was fascinating, discursive but filled with surprising gems of insight and sudden twists in reasoning that would connect two or more ideas that seemed irreconcilable until Steve abruptly showed you how they snapped together like Legos.  Even some of his boon comrades seemed to shake their heads at him from time to time, roll their eyes a bit at how wound up, involved and long-winded he could get.  I saw that as understandable, but you had to accept Tompkins hook-line-and-sinker.  You had to knock back the whole mead horn before setting it down on the bar.  His style was detailed, erudite and enveloping.  If you got on board you were going to be taken places nobody else writing about REH, HPL, Tolkien, Machen, Weird Tales or much of anything else was going to take you.  It could be a wild ride and if at all times literate and intellectually sound it was also studded with sharp jabs of often goofy humor that assured the reader that Steve was not taking himself too seriously.  Honest, his best stuff reads like nothing else. 

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So I didn’t know him, but I loved him for his fierce and unfettered eloquence, for his white hot and contagious enthusiasms, and because he had the balls to say he enjoyed Conan and the Emerald Lotus when pastiche was considered an abomination by many REH fans. 

When I heard he had died, it was so unexpected that grief and shock merged to stun me.  This guy was so young and had never once sounded even close to running out of things to say.  And he had said so much with such strange and distinctive expressiveness that I felt something personal had been taken from me.  I didn’t know the guy but I knew his voice and it was not going to speak again.

It seems to me that Tompkins was one of the most unique and vital voices in REH studies, and the one most in need of a collection of his work created to preserve what soon may well be lost to all but the most dedicated enthusiasts.  Something to help new readers see and appreciate his vision and keep the light from going out.