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Conan

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  • Conan

    OK so it's hardly High Brow, but what do people think of the original work by Bob Howard. I've just started reading a book (Lancer edition Conan the Adventurer).

    Sexist? yes
    Racist? probably, haven't read enough (but this is 19320
    Simplistic? obviously.

    Anyway, I'd be grateful for opinions.

  • #2
    Re: Conan

    Originally posted by ReaveTheJust
    OK so it's hardly High Brow, but what do people think of the original work by Bob Howard. I've just started reading a book (Lancer edition Conan the Adventurer).

    Sexist? yes
    Racist? probably, haven't read enough (but this is 19320
    Simplistic? obviously.

    Anyway, I'd be grateful for opinions.
    Short reaction: sometimes entertaining, but a very mixed bag. Some of the
    stories share all of the qualities you mentioned, and are badly written
    to boot. The story I'm thinking of here is called (I believe) "Red Nails."
    Gack.

    Some of the stories are actually pretty good, and the prose (as Fritz
    Leiber pointed out in a critical essay) shows honorable descent from
    Elizabethan verse drama (mostly Marlowe and Shakespeare). It has
    been many years since I read these stories, so I can't (with confidence)
    reel off a list of story titles that are pretty well-done.

    General rule of thumb: stay away from the ex post facto (which is
    to say posthumous) collaborations -- especially with Lin Carter!

    Robert E. Howard also wrote stories about a character named "Kull,"
    who is in some ways an anti-Conan. These stories are brooding and
    introspective, and were less popular than the Conan work. The
    "Kull" stories were written earlier, for the most part.

    Howard wrote a lot of fiction in his 30 years of life. The Solomon
    Kane stories also come to mind. Another mixture of the good and
    (to be charitable) less-than-good.

    Gold and clay. :roll:

    LSN

    Comment


    • #3
      cheers LSN

      Well I've just finished People of the Black Circle and confess to enjoying it.

      Its never ..."SAID Conan". It's always "growled", "Grunted", "commanded", "demanded", "muttered" or "roared" Conan. He also "Grins Hard" whatvever that means.

      great stuff.


      Interesting what you say about Carter, cos I was going ask about him (I think) and L Sprague de Camp. Somehow it just doesn't seem right to alter and revise a writer's work or "finish the unfinished".

      Comment


      • #4
        Views vary on R.E. Howard's work. That is most evident when the gentleman above slates "Red Nails", yet this is often classed as one of the definitive, and best written, Conan stories. Personally I think it is an absolute classic of the sword & sorcery genre.

        A couple of others that definitely need reading are Black Colossus, Queen of the Black Coast and Rogues in the House (another of my faves), but there is series of 10 or more really great stories to choose from.

        Try and track the more obscure R.E. Howard heroes like Cormac mac Art and Bran Mak Morn. However, I would agree, Soloman Kane works against the grain of a lot of Howard stories, with his Christian rather than Pagan motivations.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Anonymous
          Views vary on R.E. Howard's work. That is most evident when the gentleman above slates "Red Nails", yet this is often classed as one of the definitive, and best written, Conan stories. Personally I think it is an absolute classic of the sword & sorcery genre.
          :roll:

          This is rather odd, because "critically speaking," I've seen overwhelming support otherwise.

          I know this because, after reading the story in question, I couldn't believe how bad it
          seemed. The central motivation seemed sadistic and unhealthy to the point that I used
          to call it "neurasthenic." :lol: I asked, "This is supposed to be good? Is it typical of his
          work?" I wanted to know if it was worth the time to bother reading anything else by
          the man. I went looking for critical comment, and found it. Everything credible that
          I found condemned the work in question pretty soundly.

          The prose is much "pulpier" than that of a lot of other Howard stories. The "Black Circle"
          story is much better, if memory serves. My conclusion is that Howard, writing
          under pressure, wrote a pot-boiler of a self-parody.

          If you want to see one critical comment that disagrees with our anonymous guest in
          pretty strong terms, look at Leiber's essay in The Book of Frtiz Leiber.

          At this point, Reave, you're probably obligated to read the story if you want to go
          beyond the point of hearsay. If it rubs you the wrong way (as it does me and apparently
          a lot of other readers), I'll provide the caveat that not all of Howard's work
          is like this. ;)

          LSN

          Comment


          • #6
            As I think of this issue, I keep getting minor attacks of laughter. "Red Nails" --
            you can't be serious! :lol:

            If I wanted to do a demolition job on Howard -- and an unfair one -- I'd
            take "Red Nails" as the starting point and rip it apart in a critical essay, where
            I could then quote chunks of the prose to demonstrate its curious amalgam
            of bad Sturm und Drang prose effects and sado-masochistic theme.

            I won't bother unless this becomes a major debate. I've got better uses for
            my time. ;)

            ---

            Note that to say one likes the story (as apparently the anonymous poster does)
            is not the same as to say it's "good" by the usual canons of judging fiction.
            One can like something that's not good and dislike something that's excellent.
            Something "bad" that one likes is called a "guilty pleasure." We've all got them.
            Chaqu'un أ  son goأ»t. However, if people start elevating guilty pleasures with
            extravagant and unsupportable claims, we'll start getting assertions that Ayn Rand's
            novels are the equal of Joyce's Ulysses or Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!.

            Hey, wait a minute. Didn't a strange reader's poll of the best work of the 20th Century
            do just this?! Oh, for the love of god, Montresor...! :lol:

            Sorry. Don't get me started on this soapbox. :roll:

            Perhaps, in the interests of honesty, we ought to start a thread here where people
            post their favorite "guilty pleasures."

            LSN

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by L_Stearns_Newburg
              Perhaps, in the interests of honesty, we ought to start a thread here where people
              post their favorite "guilty pleasures."
              LSN
              Done!

              :)

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by TheAdlerian
                neurasthenic

                I haven't heard that one in a long time! Are you an ancient person?
                Define "ancient." :lol:

                I'm not "ancient" -- I'm superannuated!

                The reason I picked that word in this context was:

                1) I've read a lot of Freud, and

                2) I'm half-French, effectively bilingue in that language
                and American English, and the French cognate of the word
                is more common than the equivalent in English, and tends to
                be used with a sort of abandon in certain parts of the country.

                The hazards (hasard?) of thinking in 2 languages أ  la fois. :-]

                LSN

                Comment


                • #9
                  Mr Anonymous poster here, otherwise known as Russ Smith of Black Tears Distribution (an obvious Conan connection there) and member of the Miskatonic Foundation in Albion.

                  Indeed, I am only too aware of the critical opinion of "Red Nails" via the writings of Fritz Leiber, etc. I also own the Don Herron edited "The Dark Barbarian", a series of critical appraisals of Mr Howard.

                  Mr Leiber is quite entitled to his opinion of "Red Nails", as is anyone that wants to put an interpretation on the story. However, over the 25 years since I first read this story, the overwhelming feedback I have had from R.E. Howard fans I have known is that they love "Red Nails". For example, Byron Roberts the lead singer of Bal-Sagoth (name taken from Howard's Bran Mak Morn story, "The Gods of Bal-Sagoth") is passionate about the story. He has a MA in English Literature, and undertook research into the Howard world and out look, basing his own writings on the works of the man.

                  Howard himself had this to say about the story, from a letter dated December 5th, 1935.

                  "Red Nails".."the bloodiest and most sexy weird story I ever wrote. I have been dissatisfied with my handling of decaying races in stories...I have ignored it in all other stories, as one of the taboos, but I did not ignore it in this story. When, or if, you ever read it, I'd like to know how you like my handling of the subject of lesbianism."
                  Even Leiber himself begrudgingly admitted, "Red Nails is indeed one of the 'bloodiest and most sexy' of the Conan tales", but concluded it was not one of the best (in his opinion).

                  I am surprised you have not mentioned Grand Guignol connections, as well as Sturm und Drang, in relation to "Red Nails".

                  Well, I shall leave the initial poster to decide about the story himself.

                  At least it was not the GOR series of books that came up as a guilty pleasure. :lol: They truly are bad, in my humble opinion.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Anonymous
                    Mr Leiber is quite entitled to his opinion of "Red Nails", as is anyone that wants to put an interpretation on the story. However, over the 25 years since I first read this story, the overwhelming feedback I have had from R.E. Howard fans I have known is that they love "Red Nails". For example, Byron Roberts the lead singer of Bal-Sagoth (name taken from Howard's Bran Mak Morn story, "The Gods of Bal-Sagoth") is passionate about the story. He has a MA in English Literature, and undertook research into the Howard world and out look, basing his own writings on the works of the man.
                    Wow, fascinating. As it happens, I'm a fan of Bal-Sagoth and we played them on the radio here in Atlanta this past week. I didn't know where the name came from, however, so this gives me an excuse to play them again this coming Friday night. :)

                    At least it was not the GOR series of books that came up as a guilty pleasure. :lol: They truly are bad, in my humble opinion.
                    Urrm, second post in the nascent "Guilty Pleasures" topic. THAT didn't take long. :o

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Aye, I have known Byron of Bal-Sagoth for quite some time, since at least 1993. Prior to this the band was called Dusk (though Byron insists that they were a totally different entity). I still have their first recorded rehearsal, which included tracks like "My Beloved is Raven Tressed". Though there was a healthy Howard theme running through Dusk, lyrical inspiration also came from other pulp authors and the likes of Lovecraft and Clarke Ashton Smith.

                      Unfortunately, I have not been in contact with Byron for a few years now, but am looking forward to the new Bal-Sagoth album with relish.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        picked up a 1960's Lancer Conan the Conqueror papreback (unread judging by the binding) in London for 2 quid. De Camp assures in the intro that he only made a few minor editorial changes.

                        I have Red Nails and I am now looking forward to reading it.

                        My guilty pleasure is Asimov - much of it complete cack, but I've lover it since I was a nipper.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          If you get the chance it might be worth tracking down Worms of the Earth for Bran Mac Morn stories. I think the title of the Cormac Mac Art book was Tigers of the Sea. Howard also wrote some excellent historical tales for magazines like Oriental Tales and Magic Carpet. Four of the best of them can be found in a book called Sowers of the Thunder which I heartily recommend for any Howard collector or fan if a copy could be found.

                          I thought Red Nails was an excellent tale when I read it at the (uncritical) age of 18 or so. If memory serves, Howard never did get paid for that story as it ws one of the last he wrote before his death.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I don't know if any of you have come across this one before, but I think it may be of interest to any serious Howard fan. There will be 10 volumes in total I believe.

                            SHADOW KINGDOMS is the first volume of the Weird Works of Robert E. Howard, presenting all of Howard's work for the pulp magazine Weird Tales meticulously restored to its original magazine texts. Edited by Paul Herman. Introduction by Mark Finn. Cover by Stephen Fabian.
                            NOTE: Publication date is December 10, 2004.

                            This volume contains:

                            Two-Gun Musketeer: Robert E. Howard’s Weird Tales, by Mark Finn
                            Spear and Fang
                            In the Forest of Villefأ¨re
                            Wolfshead
                            The Lost Race
                            The Song of the Bats
                            The Ride of Falume
                            The Riders of Babylon
                            The Dream Snake
                            The Hyena
                            Remembrance
                            Sea Curse
                            The Gates of Nineveh
                            Red Shadows
                            The Harp of Alfred
                            Easter Island
                            Skulls in the Stars
                            Crete
                            Moon Mockery
                            Rattle of Bones
                            Forbidden Magic
                            The Shadow Kingdom
                            The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune
                            The Moor Ghost
                            Red Thunder



                            http://www.wildsidepress.com/

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              What a cool pubisher - Clark Aston Smith, too. Thanks! :)
                              \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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