This blog post is a tribute to Miguel Martins, who died five years ago today. Miguel was a scholar and enthusiastic fan of Robert E. Howard and sword and sorcery in general. He was also a good friend to me. I didn't write anything regarding Miguel at the time of his death. I am doing so now. He deserves to be remembered.
I first "met" Miguel, as was the case with so many of my friends and acquaintances in REH fandom, on the old Official Robert E. Howard Forum. This was in 2007. He immediately stood out as someone who actually knew a good deal about REH and all of Bob's creations, not just Conan. The fact that Miguel wasn't another run-of-the-mill Conanist (as opposed to being a Howardist) was easy to tell from his forum moniker, "Axerules." Derived from the Kull yarn, "By This Axe I Rule!", Miguel's forum name proclaimed to the world that he was a big fan of Kull and REH's Thurian Age setting.
The fact that Miguel was French also became apparent early on. He commented enthusiastically about the French REH scene and tirelessly lauded the NeO line of French paperbacks. As he rightly pointed out, NeO published more of Howard's fiction--not just Conan, but westerns, boxing yarns etc.--than any other publisher, anywhere in the world, has done to date.
Another sly indication of his Frenchness was his signature below his forum avatar pic. Such things allowed forum members to say something succinct about themselves. His sig read "From the walled city of Vyones." The reference to "Vyones" is derived from the Averoigne tales of Clark Ashton Smith, which are set in France. Smith was a writer and poet whose work Miguel loved nearly as much as that of Howard.
Miguel quickly became a standout member of the forum. Where he really stood out was his obvious enthusiasm for discussing Howard's Thurian and Hyborian Ages. His love for Clark Ashton Smith also came into play in that area, since REH and CAS had intertwined the histories behind their tales. That was right in my wheelhouse and I wasn't surprised when Miguel sent me a private message to discuss some arcane point. We hit it off and that began a correspondence which lasted almost six years.
Miguel was a steadfast partisan for the views we shared regarding the universe created by the "Dark Trinity", i.e. Howard, Smith and Lovecraft. He eloquently defended our stance--in his second language!--on the REH forum against the likes of Mark Singleton and Steve "Korak" Allsup. One fight with Allsup--who was at that time the Joab to Gary Romeo's King David--was epic. Allsup never crossed Miguel on that topic again. Miguel also tangled with “Darkstorm” Dale Rippke over on the Mongoose RPG forum. Miguel clearly won, as far as I was concerned. I'll also add that Darkstorm's condescending attitude during that debate did not endear him to Miguel.
During this same period, Miguel was brought in on Simon Sanahujas' Le nombreuses vies de Conan book project. Miguel's assignment was to do a write-up on the more obscure sword and sorcery protagonists. I suggested that he make sure to include Ramsey Campbell's Ryre. He asked for help with the section on Jakes' Brak the Barbarian. He eventually decided to have me write up that part. Miguel got me my first book publication. For that, as with so many other things, I am eternally grateful.
In early 2009, Steve Tompkins brought me on as a blogger for The Cimmerian. Miguel was just as big a Tompkins fan as I was, and he was ecstatic at my opportunity. Steve, tragically and unexpectedly, died in late March of 2009. Brian Murphy, Steve Trout and I carried on blogging, soon adding Al Harron.
In the autumn of 2009, Leo Grin officially appointed me Managing Editor of the TC blog and instructed me to bring on more bloggers. I immediately thought of Miguel. I had been doing a lot of "breaking news" reporting for the blog (while also discussing and coordinating various things with the other bloggers) and doing so left me little time for other types of blog posts. However, I didn't want the blog to run less posts like that because our readers had come to expect such things from TC. Miguel seemed the perfect candidate.
I knew that Miguel had doubts—unfounded doubts, in my opinion—in regard to his litcrit skills and command of the English language. Having him be our "breaking news reporter" seemed a good way to bring him on in a low-stress way, since such posts were usually fairly short and didn't require in-depth commentary. My hope was that he'd then gain more confidence and branch out into doing other types of posts. That did come to pass, though I think we would've seen even more such "serious" posts from Miguel if The Cimmerian blog had continued on in its usual fashion past May of 2010.
When I brought Miguel onto the blog in December 2009, it was getting about thirty thousand hits a month. When we shut down in the second week of June, 2010, the blog had gotten more than one hundred thousand hits in May. Miguel--as I've always said--was a big, big part of that. While many of his posts didn't rack up huge hits--some did--he helped keep new content up at TC every day. TC readers checked in every day--sometimes more than once--to find out if there was some cool news breaking out there in the fantasy realm. Miguel was the guy they looked to for that news.
After The Cimmerian blog shut down, Miguel and I maintained contact. We were both mods on the old Official Robert E. Howard Forum, so, in a sense, we still “worked” together. He did such a great job on that, helping things run smoothly and interacting with REH fans from around the world. He left his modding position in 2012 to concentrate on his personal life back in France. Contact became more sporadic after that. Then, one day in early April of 2014, Miguel's former comrade from the TC blog, Jeff Shanks, called me to say that Miguel had died.
One example of what a good and thoughtful friend Miguel was is demonstrated by something he did for me in the early fall of 2010. This was a bit of a low period for me. Miguel knew that. He arranged to purchase two books and have them shipped to me. The books were The Best of Adventure, Volume 1 and In the Grip of the Minotaur, both from Black Dog Books. This showed several things about Miguel. He knew I was down and wanted to cheer me up, as a good friend would. Those books were not cheap. Miguel wasn't made of money, but he bought them for me anyway. Finally, as he told me, his purchase supported a small publisher who was reprinting the best stories from the pulps. That is the sort of guy Miguel was.
If Miguel were still with us, I'd like to think he'd be a reader of the DMR Books blog. Besides being a aficionado of REH, Clark Ashton Smith and the like, he was a metalhead. Miguel was always telling me about French metal bands like Gojira and I would tell him about metal bands I was keeping an eye on.
Miguel was a kind, erudite man and a good friend to me. I was proud to have him beside me in the REH Shieldwall. Howard fandom and scholarship could ill-afford to lose a sword-brother such as he. I still miss him deeply.
Here is a remembrance of Miguel, written by Al Harron, from five years ago: