1. Oldmanofthemountain

    Oldmanofthemountain Member

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    Thoughts on Robert E Howard

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Oldmanofthemountain, Jun 30, 2020.

    What are your general thoughts on Robert E Howard’s works? How high of quality are they in your personal opinion? Do they deserve their iconic status and influence in today’s popular culture?
     
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  2. Room with a view

    Room with a view Member

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    Art school taught me a long time ago that deserve has little to do with anything when it comes to art, its more often than not a case of being in the right place at the right time. Or doing something before anyone else.

    So personally I don't begrudge the success of others.

    As for the man's work I have to say I was a fan and in many ways still am. I think there was more to Conan than what Robert was prepared to admit or let on. If you read the comics or even watch the movie with symbol literate eyes it becomes clear very quickly that the man had something to say and it wasn't just swords and sorcery.

    I vaguely recall Stephen King ripping into his work and stating that swords and sorcery was nothing more than cheap role play for cowards who get bullied or something along those lines.

    Not only is that blatantly false but even if it were true, what's wrong with empowering the reader? Then I quickly realize this is comimg from someome who has made it his life's work to play on peoples fears and insecurities so whatever.

    In the end, it's down to taste, I appreciated his work and like everything else it's not the authors fault if their books are lauded.

    Just my thoughts.
     
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  3. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Senior Member

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    Excellent. Evocative. As for how they deserve.... they entertained me well enough, and apparently captivated attention more than enough to create entire spin off movies, comics, and tabletop rpgs. The prime reason of fiction is to entertain and teach, and on the entertainment part, he succeeded.
     
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  4. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    IMHO, Howard's great contribution was his ability to imagine whole worlds and cultures and bring them to life. In this respect, the only person writing at the same time to do this was J.R.R. Tolkien, and Tolkien's work wasn't really generally recognized until the 1960s, so he couldn't have been an inspiration for Howard.

    Now it seems that everybody and his sister are writing this sort of thing, and often writing it better, so it doesn't seem like such an accomplishment. But I give him credit for being among the first to do it, and to show the way.
     
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  5. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Speaking as somebody who just discovered Howard's writing a couple of months ago, I think he was very good at what he did. I also JUST finished reading his excellent biography, by David C Smith which was published recently (I think in 2018) entitled Robert E Howard: A Literary Biography.

    What a fascinating writer Howard was. He was very VERY non-PC and had many attitudes (both blatant and latent) towards women and other races and cultures that most of us (thankfully) do not share today. However, he could certainly tell a story—the kind of story that didn't really inspire essays or study, but certainly made a reader want more.

    The English friend of mine who 'introduced' me to Howard's writing described him as 'a writing machine.' Meaning he just never stopped producing work. Howard's success as a jobbing author is also testament to the notion that perseverance pays. He submitted umpteen stories to pulp magazines and other outlets that were rejected (some of them were published later on) but he just kept writing and submitting more. He was also attempting (and succeeding) to make writing his living, during the Great Depression—even in the teeth of some of the publications going bankrupt or having to reduce the number of issues they produced per year.

    Howard sussed out the kind of stories people wanted to read at that time, and he gave the readership those stories. He wanted to make his living as a writer, and realised that his writing had to sell. That didn't keep him from breaking new ground and experimenting with other kinds of writing, but he never lost sight of his goal, which was to sell his work. And he did.

    His biography made it clear that he was very well-read, and carried on voluminous correspondence with other authors such as HP Lovecraft.

    I bought the collection of all the Conan stories, and am nearly finished reading them. As a result of buying the biography, I also bought two others: The Children of the Night, and one of his westerns. I'm particularly interested in reading the Western, as he lived in the place where Westerns were real, so to speak.

    I'm happy to discover that in my old age (just turned 71) I can still be introduced to genres I've never read before and get a window on another aspect of writing.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2020
  6. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I've only ever read a short story called The Black Stone. It was in a collection of 'Cthulhu Mythos' stories, and I don't know why I've not read anything else by him. I really liked that story, thought it was very well written. I've never read his Conan stories, but they are often somewhere in my 'to read list'.
     
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  7. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer Senior Member

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    H could be repetitive if you read his stories back to back but they were a great form of escapism. It's interesting how the evils that Conan fought back in the day such as black magicians, monsters, and nature (think storms or hurricanes) are still being fought by characters today.
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I think it occurred to me, partway through the book, that these stories weren't meant to be read all in one go. Even despite the repetitiveness (and certainly knowing Conan would 'win' every time was repetitive, as was the eventual fallability of his enemies) I still found myself reading each story without skipping. Howard got each story's pacing right, and he didn't begin each one the same way.

    Conan was different enough from his previous incarnations to be interesting as well. Sometimes he began the story as a warrior, sometimes a King, sometimes a thief, sometimes just a grubby backstreet dweller, etc. Sometimes he acts more or less on his own, sometimes he has a companion or companions. So while you always know it's 'Conan,' and you know what his prowess is, it's still interesting to see how he deals with each situation. While certain aspects of his character do stretch belief, in that he never seems to struggle to learn something or to do something that needs doing, in other ways he's definitely NOT a Mary Sue. He's not always as honorable as he might be, and when he does do the honorable thing, it's often more out of self-interest or self-preservation than anything else. He also is quite frightened by the supernatural—or at least Howard always says he is. But he doesn't let a few supernatural beings stop him.

    I'm looking forward to reading a few of Howard's non-Conan stories. I might even take up his other fantasy characters ...Kull, and the Puritan (forgot his name just now.) Got it: Solomon Kane.
     
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  9. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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  10. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    That literary masterpiece? He should be praised for inspiring Grignr the Accordian.
     
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