Friday, January 22, 2010

R.E. Howard: a commemoration

Today (22 January) is the anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Howard author of the Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane stories among many others. He was a prolific pulp author in the 1920s and 30s till his suicide in 1936, with his output including westerns, comedy and horror stories as well as his better known fantasy works.

I've been a reader of his stories for many years, primarily Conan and Kull but also Solomon Kane and the horror fiction. Though he was a correspondent of H.P. Lovecraft and wrote stories that do fit into Lovecraft's Yog-Sothothery (as HPL called the Cthlulhu Mythos, such as the Black Stone, he had a very different authorial style. For example the protagonists of Pigeons from Hell or Worms of the Earth react by struggling against the supernatural more than say the protagonist of The Hound or the Color out of Space. To be fair not all Lovecraftian heroes are inactive, but it is a different style of storytelling between the two authors.

Personally I do enjoy Howard's writing and what I'd describe as its percussive rhythms and spare descriptions. My favourite stories are probably Red Nails, Queen of the Black Coast, People of the Black Circle, Jewels of Gwalhur, Mirrors of Tizun Thune and Worms of the Earth.

Howard has been an important influence on Fantasy fiction and role playing games with the films of Conan starring Arnold Schwarzenegger having made his most famous character part of mainstream culture.

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