Steve Tompkins passed away this day in 2009. His passing and my signing on with The Cimmerian were nearly simultaneous. I never met Mr. Tompkins, but I read him. I still read him today. His online articles and introductions to the Del Rey library of Robert E. Howard are essential. He was an erudite scholar who was passionate about fantasy, history, and mythology. He made it his life’s work. He was only 48 years old when he passed away. I will turn 48 this year and it’s a harrowing thought to think of one so young gone so soon. Sadly, I already have a handful of close friends who also were given too few years in this world. This world is rarely fair.
What really was Steve’s life’s work? He was one of the few men in his era raising the lantern to shine a light upon the past to help us better understand the present. Time was never on his side. Changing fashions, mores, and belief systems seek to bury the past without a trace believing it no longer has relevance because it represents the narrow-minded views of colonial Europeans. The past is condemned as racist and sexist. The men who wrote or illustrated the art of the past are the wrong race, the wrong orientation, worshipped the wrong god, cast their allegiance with the wrong ideology. Their stories must not be read. Their art must not be seen. Their voices silenced. Their images erased.
Here stood Tompkins with his lantern held high with upraised arm, blocking their path, demanding they cease tearing down that pyramid because the Old Kingdom and its gods have fallen silent. Here stood Tompkins with his lantern held high with upraised arm, blocking their path, demanding they cease shuttering that museum because Renaissance art found beauty in God and family and defined civilization in Western terms. Here stood Tompkins with his education and fearlessness in stating the Delphic Oracle, the Sphinx, and the Pieta are the foundation of the world we inhabit today and High Art’s connections to the obscure corners of the past need to be understood in the present. Here stood Tompkins demanding we revere the wisdom of gods and warriors long since dead because they walked the same Earth, slew the same beasts, railed against the same storms, and battered against the same gates of ignorance and injustice.
Steve Tompkins was both an Everyman and a Man amongst Men. He represented the best of a dying breed. He respected the past and he fearlessly went forward in a thankless world and demanded a voice for the dead and the dying. He tore open the crypt of ancient kings to pay homage to their vanishing greatness. He cried out in the darkened night so that the fools about him remembered and, if only for a moment, ceased their senseless prattle.
Today we remember Steve Tompkins, a man who remembered those who went before him. Steve Tompkins has joined those same gods and warriors of the past. May his light never dim.
William Patrick Maynard was authorized by Sax Rohmer’s literary estate to continue the Fu Manchu thrillers. Black Coat Press published The Terror of Fu Manchu in 2009 and The Destiny of Fu Manchu in 2012. His third title, The Triumph of Fu Manchu is due later this year. His short fiction has been published by Titan Books, MX Publishing, EDGE Publishing, Airship 27, among others. He has authored nearly 300 articles for BlackGate.com. His audio commentaries and supplemental content have appeared on DVDs and Blu-ray releases from MGM, Shout Factory, Kino-Lorber, and The Serial Squadron.