Robert E. Howard Did More Than Just Create Conan

rehfence

REH in a pensive mood

Today marks the 107th anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Howard, the quintessential American pulp author best-known for creating Conan the Barbarian.

REH, as he known to fans, had an incredibly prolific and all-too-short career lasting from roughly 1929-’36. His powerful, evocative writing has always been an influence on my own writing, almost as much as H.P. Lovecraft. Like Lovecraft, Howard had a talent for painting lush, detailed scenes in only a few evocative words — although literary critics like S.T. Joshi dismissed REH’s prose as “subliterary hackwork that does not even begin to approach genuine literature.”

But, hey, Howard did much more than unleash a barbarian on pop culture. He helped shape modern pop culture by fathering the “sword and sorcery” subgenre of fantasy and contributing to Lovecraft’s horror mythos. Howard came up with a number of other vivid characters, including Solomon Kane, Kull the Conqueror,  Sailor Steve Costigan, Cormac Mac Art, Bran Mac Morn, El Borak and James Allison — notable for being disabled. I have previously looked at REH’s life, which tragically ended in suicide, so now I turn to his literary output.
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Robert E. Howard: Jan. 22, 1906 – June 11, 1936

Weird Tales, May 1934

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Howard, one of the greatest pulp authors of all time, best-known for creating Conan the Barbarian, the star of novels, short stories, comic books, a TV series and couple of movies.

I wrote at length last year about Howard’s life and influence on me, and suffice it to say, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the inspiration of his rugged prose. He had nine Conan stories published in Weird Tales, perhaps the most famous of the pulp magazines.

I suggest celebrating the anniversary with a viewing of The Whole Wide World, a wonderful little indie film based on Howard’s life. Or maybe you should read one of Howard’s original stories (perhaps “Queen of the Black Coast”), to get a feel for what the character was really like. (Arnold Schwarzenegger, he wasn’t!)

Jason Momoa as Conan

There’s a new movie, a reboot of the franchise, of course, slated for release on Aug. 19, called Conan the Barbarian, and it stars Jason Momoa, who played Ronan on STARGATE ATLANTIS, in the title role. I think this is a really good choice, as Momoa has a lot of charisma and is good with dialogue. (Those SGA episodes could get very wordy!) On the other hand, early reports indicate the movie will not be hewing very closely to Howard’s original version of the character, so that has me a little wary. Oh, and one last thing: It will be released in 3D. Again, this doesn’t fill me with confidence.
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