"That teller of marvelous tales, Robert Howard, did indeed create a giant [Conan] in whose shadow other 'hero tales' must stand."
– John Jakes, New York Times bestselling author of the "North and South" trilogy
I can never quite decide whether this is something I should necessarily be bothered about or not.
The man's name was Robert E. Howard. That's what he's credited as on the manuscripts and publications, indicating that's the name he'd like to go by. Ergo, the man should be referred to as Robert E. Howard, or Howard. In a pinch, the informal use of Bob Howard or REH would do.
However, there are certain combinations of Howard's name that, for some reason or another, irk me. I've seen it rendered as Robert Howard (as in the above John Jakes soundbyte), R. E. Howard (as quoth by James Purefoy in a BBC interview) and even R. Howard (as emblazoned on the cover of Wordsworrth's The Right Hand of Doom and Other Tales of Solomon Kane). I don't know exactly why it annoys me, but it does. Perhaps it's because other people aren't as fast and loose with other authors' names. You never hear, for example, Jo Rowling, or Joanne Kathleen Rowling, or even Joanne Murray: it's always J. K. Rowling. Same with Stephen King: nobody calls him Stephen E. King, or S. E. King. I couldn't possibly list the number of variations of J.R.R. Tolkien that could be made, yet nobody strays from the standard.
So why does Howard run the gamut from Robert E. Howard, to Robert Howard, to R. E. Howard, to R. Howard? Are people really that unaware? Do they just not care? Do they - dare I say it - throw their hands in the air with a Care Bear Stare? (Sorry, I got into an Infinite Causality Rhyming Loop for a moment)
It just seems anathema to me. Who knows, maybe I'm just really finicky or something. I'll just go back and sort my Henry R. Haggard from my E. R. Burroughs, see if I can find that Terence Hanbury White that's been running about, and put the G. Raymond R. Martin and Lyon S. D. Camps collections back on the shelf.
... See how annoying it is?
EDIT: And as if to prove my point, I came across another R.E. Howard. What gives? Still, this is worth a look, since he talks about Breck Elkins and the accompanying webcomic. Cool stuff.