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Author Topic: Conan Literature  (Read 3062 times)

GeekyBugle

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Re: Conan Literature
« Reply #15 on: August 05, 2021, 10:44:07 PM »
So, I'm going back to my roots a little bit and have been picking up Conan books. In my youth, I saw the movies and read a handful of stories, but not all of them. Looking at the books now, there are a bunch of authors where I was only familiar with Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, and Lin Carter.

My question for the readers is, who do you think are the quintessential Conan story authors whose works I should read? Which authors really understood who Conan was as a character and could write about him?

IMHO the Ace novels (12?) which include 11 pastiches and the only Conan novel REH ever wrote (Hour of the Dragon AKA Conan The Conqueror)

This includes only Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, and Lin Carter
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GeekyBugle

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Re: Conan Literature
« Reply #16 on: August 05, 2021, 10:48:54 PM »
I got The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, which is just the REH stuff, and enjoyed it.
I've intentionally stayed away from other authors, as I feel like Conan was REH's thing, and I really am not interested in the character interpreted by another author.

Lin and De Camp's Conan stories were definitely not very Howard.

I'd stick with Howard. The rest is "above average" fan-fiction (take that as you will). L. Sprague de Camp is a decent writer... but the tone of Conan is not the same as Howards as I recall. It's been years but I distinctly remember it feeling like something was off.

I'd stick with REH.

Part of the difference is due to the conscious effort in immitating REH, and also some of those pastiches include other works by REH off different characters rewritten to be part of a Conan story.

IMHO the first 12 novels are decent enough, but I might be biased since I read those long before I ever read the REH works by themselves.
Quote from: Rhedyn

Here is why this forum tends to be so stupid. Many people here think Joe Biden is "The Left", when he is actually Far Right and every US republican is just an idiot.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

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Lurkndog

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Re: Conan Literature
« Reply #17 on: August 07, 2021, 10:58:34 AM »
A couple years ago, I dug out one of my Ace Conan anthology books from the 70's. I found that the pastiches were nowhere near the quality of the genuine REH stories. This wasn't as apparent to me back in the day, but it is pretty clear now.

It's as if someone fielded an NFL team made up of cosplayers. They might look okay at the outset, but start the game and the truth comes out.

Zalman

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Re: Conan Literature
« Reply #18 on: October 03, 2021, 11:10:14 AM »
As for reading Conan, I would absolutely re-read Robert E. Howard, but after him, the best Conan authors are probably were Marvel's Savage Sword of Conan.

http://readallcomics.com/savage-sword-of-conan-v1-001/

100% this. In fact, REH and Savage Sword are the only Conan I'd suggest bothering with. And to "authors" I'd add "illustrators" -- John Buscema defined Conan for me visually almost as much as Frazetta.
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Ruprecht

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pastiches
« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2021, 06:42:06 PM »
Read them all in High School and didn't pay attention to authors so much. Now I have the three compellations of the REH books which I loved.

I'd love it if someone put together a compellation or two of the pastiches so I don't have to  hunt down the books in used book stores.
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mudbanks

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Re: Conan Literature
« Reply #20 on: November 30, 2021, 09:38:02 PM »
Read through all the REH stories at least twice, and as other members have echoed, none of the other authors, not Lin Carter, de Camp, John Maddox, etc, even neared the feel that Howard conveyed in his stories. From reading those pastiches/fan-fics, I got the sense that the authors' visions of Hyboria were not as clear-cut as Howard's, and that there was too much exposition on the narrative and from the mouths of the characters, leading to far less "treading on jewelled thrones" and more "he cometh and conquered and kicked ass". There's far less left to the imagination.

Howard's writing on the other hand has a certain naivety, with most major characters having strong convictions in either the gods or power. He does not focus on minutiae, instead devoting his attention to either describing evocative details to convey emotions to the reader or to drive the story forward. Think about how he describes Zamboula or Fort Tuscelan or the Poitainian fields. In every instance, his style surely evoked not just the appearance, but also the mood, mannerisms and way of life in those places. All of these things I thought were lost in the pastiches.

Ruprecht

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Re: Conan Literature
« Reply #21 on: November 30, 2021, 10:05:59 PM »
For what its worth, I found out that someone did put together a few compilations of the pastiches.
Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing. ~Robert E. Howard

Null42

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Re: Conan Literature
« Reply #22 on: December 07, 2021, 08:31:49 AM »
Read through all the REH stories at least twice, and as other members have echoed, none of the other authors, not Lin Carter, de Camp, John Maddox, etc, even neared the feel that Howard conveyed in his stories. From reading those pastiches/fan-fics, I got the sense that the authors' visions of Hyboria were not as clear-cut as Howard's, and that there was too much exposition on the narrative and from the mouths of the characters, leading to far less "treading on jewelled thrones" and more "he cometh and conquered and kicked ass". There's far less left to the imagination.

Howard's writing on the other hand has a certain naivety, with most major characters having strong convictions in either the gods or power. He does not focus on minutiae, instead devoting his attention to either describing evocative details to convey emotions to the reader or to drive the story forward. Think about how he describes Zamboula or Fort Tuscelan or the Poitainian fields. In every instance, his style surely evoked not just the appearance, but also the mood, mannerisms and way of life in those places. All of these things I thought were lost in the pastiches.

There's a story by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges (one of the few conservatives in recent literature, BTW, and worth reading for any fantasy fan with a mathematical bent as there are ideas like infinity and bifurcation theory in his work) about a French poet named Pierre Menard who learns Spanish, converts to Catholicism, tries to live in a medieval fashion, etc. to put himself into the mind of Miguel de Cervantes in order to rewrite Don Quixote from scratch. (Don Quixote has roughly the same status in Spanish literature Shakespeare has in English.) Finally he produces a few lines of the famous book. There's a line: "The archaic style of Menard - quite foreign, after all - suffers from a certain affectation. Not so that of his forerunner, who handles with ease the current Spanish of his time." The joke, of course, is that it's the same text, but Cervantes is just talking naturally but Menard's faking it.

Howard gets to make up his own characters and places for plot reasons. The other writers have to hold to the Hyborian canon. If Howard wants a kingdom, he invents one; the other writers have to go through Howard's kingdoms and find one that fits their purposes more or less.

I recently reread Howard's Conan stories (in a nice omnibus with a suitably naughty Margaret Brundage cover), and the thing that struck me is the total lack of any irony or distance in his writing. He wrote for pay, but he is really and truly passionate about his barbarians, women, sorcerers, and snakes, and he shares that with you. There's no sense that he's doing anything cheesy or as a joke, no winking at the metaphorical camera.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2021, 08:33:28 AM by Null42 »

mudbanks

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Re: Conan Literature
« Reply #23 on: December 09, 2021, 08:47:59 AM »
Absolutely spot on, and it was noted that he had put so much feverish energy into his writing of the Conan stories because it was as if the character himself was next to him, regaling the tales as they had happened. Unfortunately I believe at some point (though I cannot provide a source but I'm sure I had seen this), some critics had taken this out of context for Howard being a little unhinged mentally.

The problem with Howard's writing was that while it lent amazingly well to writing sword and sandal stories, it didn't do so well with certain genres (IMO) like in his contemporary El Borak stories.

Lurkndog

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Re: Conan Literature
« Reply #24 on: December 09, 2021, 06:37:10 PM »
I recently reread Howard's Conan stories (in a nice omnibus with a suitably naughty Margaret Brundage cover), and the thing that struck me is the total lack of any irony or distance in his writing. He wrote for pay, but he is really and truly passionate about his barbarians, women, sorcerers, and snakes, and he shares that with you. There's no sense that he's doing anything cheesy or as a joke, no winking at the metaphorical camera.

He actually had a pretty wide range as an author. His Western tall tales are absolutely over the top and tongue-in-cheek, and delightful. They are collected in a volume from Bison Press called The Riot at Bucksnort. I highly recommend them.