Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Robert E. Howard, the fantasy world marked his 105th Birthday

Happy birthday, REH. And while some may deem it strange to wish birthday tidings to a man long dead, his works live on and, as he wrote in a Conan story, we "drink to his shade."

Having read no one's works who could surpass the action writing of Robert E. Howard, to me he is the best sword and sorcery writer to ever live. Karl Edward Wagner runs at second place, and Edgar Rice Burroughs at third, but no one takes Howard for clean, bold imagery and action in the span of a short story, a novella or two, and one novel.

Hardcore REH fans often point to his boxing or western stories as the best of the best, forgoing the more popular stories of the king of all barbarians, Conan. Not for me. Kull and Solomon Kane and his horror stories are very cool, but don't rise to the level of his Conan stories. I wish he'd typed up more novels, but that's a long medium and back in the day he was shooting stories to more than just Weird Tales for his living. If I recall my readings correctly, Weird Tales didn't pay REH his due for a Conan story, so he abandoned the character. Not cool, Weird Tales. You essentially killed Conan.

"Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet."
— Robert E. Howard, The Phoenix on the Sword, 1932.

As I commented there, all the while I read REH in my younger days, I always pictured him a wizened old timer, perhaps an ex-soldier or historian, and here he only made it to 30 years old.

Genius writing. The power …!


Below is Howard's photo. It's probably his most popular picture, but he rarely dressed that way out in West Texas. Also below, a favorite clip from the movie, Whole Wide World, about Howard and his love interest, Novalyne Price.

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