Revisiting a Post: Robert E. Howard — One Who Walked Alone

Today marks the 108th anniversary of the birth of pulp author Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian and one of the most prolific, influential and successful authors from the era of pulp magazines. I usually post an ode to the Man From Cross Plains on this date, and this year I decided to do something a bit different: Taking a page from pulp mags like Weird Tales and Fight Stories, which used to publish Howard’s tales, I’m posting a reprint of a “classic” REH post (one I penned in 2010) with some slight editing. If you want to read what I wrote about REH last year or in 2011, follow the links. Enjoy! — Joe 01/22/14

The date Jan. 22 has been important to me since I was a lad, because it marks the anniversary of the birth of pulp author Robert E. Howard in 1906. One of my true favorites, Howard is most famous for creating Conan the Cimmerian, but his oeuvre also included such colorful characters as King Kull, Cormac Mac Art, El Borak, Sailor Steve Costigan, and another particular favorite, Solomon Kane, a Puritan adventurer. This was evocative stuff for a youngster, and Howard was the first writer I ever tried to emulate. I loved writing my own Conan stories, even though I was the only one who read them.
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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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Robert E. Howard: One Who Walked Alone

Robert E. Howard

The date Jan. 22 has been important to me since I was a lad, because it marks the anniversary of the birth of pulp author Robert E. Howard in 1906. One of my true favorites, Howard is most famous for creating Conan the Cimmerian, but his oeuvre also included such colorful characters as King Kull, Cormac Mac Art, El Borak, Sailor Steve Costigan, and another particular favorite, Solomon Kane, a Puritan adventurer (and soon to be a movie). This was evocative stuff for a youngster, and Howard was the first writer I ever tried to emulate. I loved writing my own Conan stories.

I was introduced to Howard through the Marvel Comics series Conan the Barbarian, which adapted Howard’s most influential creation. As often happened when I was younger, I was inspired to track down the books that inspired the comics. The short stories and novels were colorful and quick reads that conjured amazingly vivid worlds. I loved the Conan Mythos; set in a universe Howard dubbed the Hyborian Age, a time before recorded history when men stood against magic and monsters. I was disappointed that Howard’s Conan output was limited, and after voraciously reading everything he had written, I moved on to pastiches written by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter based on unfinished manuscripts, story fragments, proposals, etc., as well as other authors like Bjorn Nyberg and Andrew J. Offutt. They all tried hard to ape Howard’s dynamic prose, but there was only one master. I personally always thought comics scribe Roy Thomas best captured Howard’s voice. Later I learned that Howard was a contemporary of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft; the two corresponded, and Howard made significant contributions to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.
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