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Robert E. Howard's Conan
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 18 April, 2019 04:43PM
"The Hyborian Age", "The Phoenix on the Sword": At 26 Robert E. Howard had a far developed understanding of human character, and of intricate human intrigue. Remarkable. He was like an ancient oak of stored energy and layered memories, in a young body. Insights that are completely lost on modern citizens. (If he had lived today, and had been interested in politics, he might have enlightened people as to how completely fooled and self-denied they are by those in corrupt global control.)
And his unconventional grasp of Conan's phenomenal physique and cortex is uncanny. Howard had the poet's obsession with truth. His sentences are worth lingering over. I wonder where he got all this wisdom; perhaps by a mystical heritage transcending directly down into his soul?

It is confirmed; Lovecraft, Smith, and Howard were three literary giants, that have not been equalled since. Others have tried to emulate them, through the tool of intellect, ... but have lacked their mystical depth. I am waiting for "academics" to tap this mystery, rather than just gabbling historical fact records.

Re: Robert E. Howard's Conan
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 19 April, 2019 12:34AM
I was thinking the other day that when I first branched out into what was then called "adult fantasy", in the late 60s, Howard may have been the most widely read of the three. The first of Carter's collections of Smith, Zothique, was coming out, and I had yet to see any actual Lovecraft reprints in popular paperback series.

Your observations?

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"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Robert E. Howard's Conan
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 19 April, 2019 03:15AM
Sawfish, I started reading fantastic fiction seriously in the early 1980s. Before that, as a kid in the 70s, I had seen Conan everywhere in the form of comics. And then the Conan blockbuster films came in the 80's (I saw them, but wasn't particularly enthusiastic). That was part of the reason I never read the books; "too popular" for me. I always preferred to search out stuff that was more obscure, more mystical, less action-oriented, and which few "ordinary" people had access too. Lovecraft and Smith I stumbled upon by chance. Although later I came to realize that Lovecraft is extremely popular (which has never lessened my enthusiasm for his work).

Re: Robert E. Howard's Conan
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 19 April, 2019 03:22AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And his unconventional grasp of Conan's phenomenal
> physique and cortex is uncanny.

Of course, as documented, E. R. Burrough's Tarzan was an inspiration for him. But I don't like to "explain" away things so easily, since I believe the background is more profound and also mystical.

Re: Robert E. Howard's Conan
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 19 April, 2019 03:15PM
I'm thinking that if someone insisted that I put Howard's heroic stuff in a category, Nietzschean might work.
To me, atmospherically, it *feels* like Beowulf. There is a tremendous, memorable, brutality in it, but it's not gratuitous. It's intrinsic to his worldview, I think, so in this sense it fits and seems legitimate.

My opinion, and others might not agree.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Robert E. Howard's Conan
Posted by: Ancient History (IP Logged)
Date: 21 April, 2019 10:02AM
Of course, Robert E. Howard didn't create Conan out of whole cloth: [www.blackgate.com]

Lovecraft beat Smith and Howard to hardcover publication of his fiction, since Arkham House started up specifically to publish HPL; Gnome Press in the 50s started Conan on the path to wider publication, and in the 1960s Lancer republished those books as paperbacks just as fantasy was exploding with the paperback publication of THE LORD OF THE RINGS. The Arkham House collections of Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith were reprinted from 1969-1974 as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series.

Re: Robert E. Howard's Conan
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 21 April, 2019 01:52PM
Good information.

Thanks!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Robert E. Howard's Conan
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 13 May, 2019 04:11PM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I'm thinking that if someone insisted that I put
> Howard's heroic stuff in a category, Nietzschean
> might work.
> To me, atmospherically, it *feels* like Beowulf.
> There is a tremendous, memorable, brutality in it,
> but it's not gratuitous. It's intrinsic to his
> worldview, I think, so in this sense it fits and
> seems legitimate.
>
> My opinion, and others might not agree.

A very cogent observation, that. And, as Kyngatin and others have said, I think one of the great strengths of Howard was a blending of the traditional "heroic" worldview of Beowulf and the Eddas and Sagas with an acute poeticism of his own. One comes across amazingly powerful passages throughout his fantasy pieces which would not be out of place among the classics of such literature; imagery which is, indeed, quite "mystical" in its ability to tap into those ancient inheritances in a way which is "present" in a manner quite accessible to a thoroughly "modern" sensibility as well as one attuned to an older worldview. He could, at times, be a bit slipshod with his writing, it is true (now and again I wince at a bit which, seeing what he has done in the same piece, could have been done so much more smoothly and simply better)... but he was working very hard as a "professional" writer who was making a living at a trade which paid damn' little; and, in my view, the best outweighs the worst a thousandfold. The title of the old Grant collection of some of his verse, Echoes from an Iron Harp, seems particularly appropriate to his writing, I think....

Re: Robert E. Howard's Conan
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 13 May, 2019 04:56PM
Good analysis! I'll try to find some of his work and read it again.

Thanks!

Hah! I just got a bunch of H. G. Wells and Rudyard Kipling as free ebooks and these are *really* excellent writers, in my opinion.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Robert E. Howard's Conan
Posted by: jdworth (IP Logged)
Date: 13 May, 2019 06:52PM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Hah! I just got a bunch of H. G. Wells and Rudyard
> Kipling as free ebooks and these are *really*
> excellent writers, in my opinion.

You're welcome. As for Wells and Kipling... I've always been less enchanted with Wells than many, yet can certainly appreciate his stature. He just appeals to me less personally. And lately (about a year or so ago) I read a rather hefty amount of Kipling and would agree he, too, is an excellent writer; certainly one of the great storytellers. He has some mannerisms that sometimes irritate me a bit, but I do think he is a very important, and fine writer. On a related note... have you read Kipling's "They"? That, in my opinion, is one of his finest short stories, both in its subtlety and impact.

Re: Robert E. Howard's Conan
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 13 May, 2019 07:53PM
I'll find it.

Thanks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: Robert E. Howard's Conan
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 25 November, 2019 02:00PM
I finally finished reading The Complete Chronicles of Conan: Centenary Edition from cover to cover, all of Howard's twenty-one Conan tales, plus related material, drafts, fragments, and synopsis. All from original publications and manuscripts. And free from Sprague de Camp's heavy editing.

Some personal favorites, not saying they are necessarily the best, but which in hindsight stand out as most memorable:

"The Scarlet Citadel"
"The Tower of the Elephant"
"The Slithering Shadow" [the most Klarkashtonish]
"Queen of the Black Coast"
"The People of the Black Circle"
"A Witch Shall Be Born"
"Shadows in Zamboula"
"The Black Stranger"
"The Snout in the Dark" [draft]

Honorable mention: "Red Nails" (much evil in this one), "The Hour of the Dragon" (several fine moments, albeit rambling and overlong).

But most Conan tales hold a similar level of quality. Unfortunately they all follow the same predictable overall story structure, which challenged my patience after a while. I think they were written to sell loose newsstand numbers to spontaneous buyers on the street. I don't recommend anyone to read all these stories in a row.

The greatest qualities lie in the details and the immediate segments inside the stories, not the story compositions themselves.

Howard's descriptions of Conan's body and psyche is almost a unique art-form in itself, and he is able to paint Conan dynamically over and over, from different angles, tremendously impressive and convincing, especially so in the earlier stories. (His scantily clad women though I find more stereotyped; I think CAS and Leiber did this better.) Conan may be stereotyped in the movies, but not so in the hands of Howard! Here is real flesh and blood, and a demigod.

The second thing that strikes me is Howard's handling of large-scale big armies, war, strategy, and the immediate violence of fighting. He is in total control. Astounded, I humbly bow down.
Howard also had, in spite of his young age, a complex and penetrating insight into the evil operations of corrupt politicians and despots. I cannot fathom where ever he got all that knowledge. It is fully applicable upon the world of today; and yet hardly anyone today seems to be able to penetrate it. Except for Howard in retrospect. In this regard he was a modern Shakespeare.

It seems to me Howard restrained the fantasy elements so that the stories would uphold a certain sense of historic verisimilitude. I grew a bit bored with all the giant snakes and apes. But he handles supernatural forces extremely well. And this makes him one of the giants of genuine weird supernatural literature, tapping understanding from mystical dimensions, that have not been equaled since; not by Leiber, not by Jack Vance, not by anyone.

I think Howard's foremost inspiration for his adventure yarns was E. R. Burroughs. I look forward to reading the best of the Tarzan novels, and see which I rate the highest of Conan and Tarzan.

Re: Robert E. Howard's Conan
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 26 November, 2019 10:36AM
Note to future readers: there was also some discussion of Howard and Conan going on, in November 2019, on the thread called "A good weird/horror/sci-fi book to recommend."



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