Tuesday, 1 February 2011

In Praise of Robert E. Howard's Works

Inspired by Deuce's marvellous thread over at the Robert E. Howard forums, collected herein are a bundle of quotes in praise of the Man from Cross Plains from those in the business.

I just thought it would be good to have them all collected in a single post, which I'll update with new additions whenever they come by. If anyone finds any good ones, don't hesitate to put them in the comments, and if you can, put a link to a source.


In this, I think, the art of Robert E. Howard was hard to surpass: vigor, speed, vividness. And always there is that furious, galloping narrative pace.
As for REH's influence, I came to him a little late. I have always enjoyed a certain amount of literary blood-and-thunder, and he certainly provided a very good brand of it.
- Poul Anderson

[Behind Howard’s stories] lurks a dark poetry, and the timeless truth of dreams. That is why these tales have survived. They remain a fitting heritage of the poet and dreamer who was Robert E. Howard.
- Robert Bloch

Howard had a great love for all that was lost and strange and faraway. One thinks of him sitting at his typewriter in Cross Plains, Texas, a young man dreaming great dreams of gods and heroes far beyond the narrow boundaries of his own space and time, roaming free across the wonderful landscapes he saw in his mind.
- Leigh Brackett

My first love as a fan is swords-and-horses fantasies. After Tolkien I went after C.S. Lewis. After Lewis, it was Lloyd Alexander. After them came Fritz Leiber, Roger Zalazny, Robert Howard, John Norman, Poul Anderson, David Eddings, Weis and Hickman, Terry Brooks, Elizabeth Moon, Glen Cook, and before I knew it, I was a dual citizen of the United States and Lankhmar, Narnia, Gor, Cimmeria, Krynn, Amber – you get the picture.
- Jim Butcher

With the existential anti-hero of Conan, Howard was using the romantic fiction of the Distant Past to draw a portrait of Twentieth Century Man—red of hand and dark of eye, pursued by demons both real and imagined, who worships a god who refuses to help those who pray to it, and is simply doing whatever it takes to get by, whether its stealing jewels, splitting a guard’s skull, skewering a wizard, or usurping a kingdom. You can quest until the cows come home, with allegory out the ying-yang, and still never get any more profound than that.
- Nancy A. Collins

Howard was a true storyteller -- one of the first, and certainly among the best you'll find in heroic fantasy. If you've never read him before, you're in for a real treat.
- Charles de Lint

Howard honestly believed the basic truth of the stories he was telling. It’s as if he’d said, ‘This is how life really was lived in those former savage times!’
- David Drake

I adore these books. Howard had a gritty, vibrant style- broadsword writing that cut its way to the heart, with heroes who are truly larger than life. I heartily recommend them to anyone who loves fantasy.
- David Gemmel

He left an incontestable testimony to his genius in the fantastic field of literature, and had many admirers both in his writing lifetime and in the years that followed.
- Mary Gnaedinger

Weird, fantastic, but peopled with real men who think and act as we conceive the thoughts and acts of men. . . . None of the dummies that pirouette through some stories, using stilted, supposedly archaic language, and moving in response to the author’s obvious string-pulling. All of which leads you to believe that I like it. Correct. I do.
- E. Hoffman Price

That teller of marvelous tales, Robert Howard, did indeed create a giant [Conan] in whose shadow other ‘hero tales’ must stand.
- John Jakes

The best pulp fantasy writer was Robert E. Howard... He painted in about the broadest strokes imaginable. A mass of glimmering black for the menace, and ice blue cascade for the hero, between them a swath of crimson for battle, passion, blood - and that was the picture, or story, rather, except where a vivid detail might chance to spring to life, or a swift thought-arabesque be added.
- Fritz Leiber

He had a stellar talent. I not only lost a contemporary in the death of Robert E. Howard. The world lost a writer of extraordinary gifts.
- Murray Leinster

No one could write more convincingly of violence and gore than he, and his battle passages reveal an instinctive aptitude for military tactics which would have brought him distinction in times of war.
No author- even in the humblest fields - can truly excel unless he takes his work very seriously; and Mr. Howard did just that, even in cases where he consiously thought he did not. That such a genuine artist should perish while hundreds of insincere hacks continue to concoct spurious ghosts and vampires and space ships and occult detectives is indeed a sorry piece of cosmic irony.
- H.P. Lovecraft, "In Memoriam"

I've been writing fiction for as long as I can remember. It began with imitating my heroes: authors such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Fred Brown, Henry Kuttner, Phil Dick, E.E. 'Doc' Smith, John W. Campbell, Jack Vance, Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, John Brunner, Issac Asimov, and Eric Frank Russell; Crime fiction by Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and of course Carroll John Daly, Mickey Spillane and William Campbell Gault. Horror and fantasy by Richard Matheson, H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R., Tolkien, and Clark Ashton Smith. I also have to include the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as the Hornblower books by C.S. Forester. All the writers I love to read! The true greats! I'm sure I've left many out. Then there are more recent giants: Andrew Vachss, of course...
- Gary Lovisi

There will only ever be one Robert E. Howard.
This one is dedicated to all those literary sorcerers – most notably Robert E. Howard – who have given so much of themselves for this reader’s joy.
- Jeff Mariotte

Over a period of time following almost exactly the period in which I was writing the first Elric stories, I was inclined to distance myself from the work of Robert E. Howard, even though he had been an important influence (unlike Lovecraft, for whom I had no taste). Over the years I have seen many other writers put space between themselves and their main sources of inspiration and have come to understand it as an important, if not particularly admirable, part of the process of trying to make one’s individual mark.
In recent times I have also given Howard due credit and even by the early 1960s was perfectly happy to announce him as an important influence.
Howard wrote pulp adventure stories of every kind, for every market he could find, but his real love was for supernatural adventure and he brought a brash, tough element to the epic fantasy which did as much to change the course of the American school away from precious writing and static imagery as Hammett, Chandler, and the Black Mask pulp writers were to change the course of American detective fiction.
- Michael Moorcock

The voice of Robert E. Howard still resonates after decades with readers— equal parts ringing steel, thunderous horse hooves, and spattered blood. Far from being a stereotype, his creation of Conan is the high heroic adventurer. His raw muscle and sinews, boiling temper, and lusty laughs are the gauge by which all modern heroes must be measured.
- Eric Nylund

Simply put, Robert E. Howard, like Edgar Rice Burroughs had the Magic. Whether we are fans or imitators – there are lots of those – or emulators or choke-grasp critics, we all sort of wish we had that magic too.
- Andrew J. Offutt

Robert E. Howard. All-time favorite author, etc. People often ask me to recommend Western authors, and since the people asking are usually crime fiction fans, I tend to recommend the darker, more hardboiled Western writers such as Ed Gorman, H.A. De Rosso, Lewis B. Patten, Luke Short, and T.T. Flynn.
- James Reasoner

Robert E. Howard was a magnificent individual. The quality of (Howard's) imagination takes you out of this world.
- Donald Sidney-Fryer

I could name a whole slew of writers active in WF right now as big influences, and dozens of classic writers - from Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, and Steinbeck to Stephen King, Robert E. Howard and Stan Lee.
 - Troy D. Smith

Howard did not have unlimited range as a writer, but certain things he did very well indeed, certain emotions he depicted with a master's hand.
Hatred, obsession and revenge were among those emotions. They infuse the best of his Conan stories, "Red Nails", making it a minor masterpiece of terror and madness.
 - S.M. Stirling

What brought Heroes Die into being was an impulse (shared, I believe, by Mr. Mièville) to write viscerally entertaining fantasy that might also engage the reader on an intellectual level. My structural models were the adventure fantasies of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber; my intellectual models were Roger Zelazny and Philip K. Dick. Not that I was trying to imitate any of them, you understand—I just wanted my stories to kick Conan-sized ass, while carrying the emotional and intellectual impact of “A Rose For Ecclesiastes” and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said.
- Matthew Stover

Robert E. Howard used words like living creatures.
- Larry D. Thomas, 2008 Poet Laureate of Texas

One of the most astounding literary phenomena of this century is Robert E Howard (1906 – 1936) who, despite the disadvantage of living his entire short life in or near the dusty little village of Cross Plains, Texas – over a thousand miles from any of his literary peers in the genre of fantastic fiction – nevertheless produced a considerable body of inspiring fantasy epic prose and poetry.
Perhaps his very isolation helped spur his keen and colourful imagination in a frantic search for relief from the bucolic drabness around him; at any rate, the fast moving adventures he contributed to the pulp magazines of the ‘20’s and ‘30’s are definitely among the best of their kind, equal to the creations of such masters as Burroughs and Merritt in engrossing the reader in the excitement of the plot or evoking wonder through the depiction of strange ages and lost empires, and second to none in their display of a heroic , poetic writing style that derives from a long line of epic bards extending from Robert Service back to Homer.
Howard was first of all a poet in the heroic tradition, and a few of his tales deserve to be considered modern classics in that field.
- Richard L. Tierney, Tigers of the Sea, Sphere, 1974

For headlong, nonstop adventure and for vivid, even florid, scenery, no one even comes close to Howard.
- Harry Turtledove

The novel ranks as one of Howard's best pieces of writing- and one of the best novels ever written in the epic fantasy genre. For many fans, Conan, and this novel, exemplify all that they expect from epic fantasy.
- Karl Edward Wagner on The Hour of the Dragon

Robert Howard's stories are as readable today, for better or for worse, as the day they were written. Some are better than others, but they're still alive.
When asked which writer has had the greatest single-handed impact on fantasy (heroic and un), many people automatically say JRR Tolkien. After that, things get much less concensual as each individual polled plumps for his own favorite, but if we could really trace back all the influences shaping the genre, we might end up blaming it all on Howard.
Robert E. Howard was a writer with a vision, an interpretation of history which he incorporated into his own universe, and he made that vision real for his readers.
- David Weber

It would be physically and spiritually impossible to assemble a dull or uninteresting collection of Howard stories.
- Gahan Wilson

By the time I received Two Towers, I had learned my lesson -- I ordered The Return of the King at once. That, too, is on my desk. With one other thing, its back holds a delightfully detailed map of Rohan, Gondor, and Mordor. The quotation I inscribed on its half-title is from Robert E. Howard. You have my leave to quarrel with me, but I think it the finest of the three, indeed one of the finest things I have ever read.
Into the west, unknown of man,
Ships have sailed since the world began.
Read, if you dare, what Skelos wrote,
With dead hands fumbling his silken coat;
And follow the ships through the wind-blown wrack--
Follow the ships that come not back.
If you remember the end of this last volume, how Frodo rides to the Grey Havens in the long Firth of Lune and boards the white ship, never to be seen again in Middle-earth, you will understand why I chose that particular quotation and why I treasure it (and the book which holds it) even today.
- Gene Wolfe

And of course my appreciation to Robert E. Howard. Without him we are nothing.
- J. Steven York

Robert E. Howard. The books of his short tales were some of the first ones I ever read and his tales continue to inspire me. It's a basic storytelling thing most modern folks seem to have lost.
  - Steven L. Shrewsbury

The concept for the series (Merkabah Rider) was born in my love of 1930′s pulps, especially hair-raising stories by the great Robert E. Howard like Old Garfield’s Heart, and The Horror From The Mound.
- Edward M. Erdelac

Outside comics, Dashiell Hammett, Robert E. Howard, Oscar Wilde, P. G. Wodehouse, early Chuck Pahlaniuk, Angela Carter, and I’d have to say the best book I’ve ever read is Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. For pretty much all of them, it’s because of their ability to inject character into fantastic circumstances.
 - Paul Tobin

From an early age, H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard were both big influences.
 - Jordan Krall

As a kid I was totally enthralled by the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock (still am!) and by my early teens I knew for certain that I wanted their job. Imagine stuff. Write it down. Get paid. Perfect.
- Mark Hodder

I’d like to see more of that kind of strange otherness that literally made the hair stand up on the back of my neck when I first read Robert E Howard. I’m a massive Tolkien fan, but Howard was able to evoke an entire epoch that was weird and distant and visceral without breaking sweat. I think of him bent over his typewriter in ’twenties Texas, and I wonder to this day – where the hell did he get it from? It was effortless – at least that’s how it seems – and it stormed out of his head fully-fledged and howling. I’d like to see some modern day fantasy author go for that kind of energy – throw the world-building out the window for crying out loud – and just write a good goddamned story.
- Paul Kearney

I started on Andre Norton and Heinlein’s juveniles in 5th grade, and on to Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Talbot Mundy, Sax Rohmer, C. L. Moore, ERB…so many, many fascinating writers!
- K.G. McAbee

I’m a massive fan of Robert E Howard’s writing...
- Andy Hoare

Pulp is pure creative instinct and that may be one of the reasons why certain writers who came out of the pulps were so unique; they didn’t worry about stylistic choices as much as they just shot from the hip and their real, natural styles and ideas came out because of that. I mean, look at guys like Robert E. Howard and HP Lovecraft! Those guys weren’t intentionally planning out those incredible worlds that they managed to put on paper. Their universes are too real for that. That stuff came straight from their guts and that’s why it’s so effective and so influential even today. The best pulp writers dragged the lakes of their souls and put what they found out there for the world to see. Pulp doesn’t compromise.
- Aaron Smith

When I was very young I wanted to be a writer, first of all a writer of philosophically inclined thrillers like Robert E. Howard, Ray Bradbury or Stan Lee, and then later a writer of thrillingly inclined philosophy, like Albert Camus, Franz Kafka or Samuel Beckett.
- Stewart Lee

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are at my foundational level, in terms of inspiration, but I do have many other authors that I consider to be strong influences, ranging from George R.R. Martin, to David Gemmell, Robert E. Howard, Clive Barker and Glen Cook.
- David Zimmer

If any of you like sword and sorcery tales, then CONAN is the man and series for you. Howard’s writing is pure pulp and bare bones. He’s writes from the gut and, once in a tale, there aren’t any minor plots to deviate from the story. Conan rides into town, and bloody action quickly follows. Howard has a great style about him, and I liken his prose to that of Shakespeare, once you start getting into it, you love it.
... The world building is on par with Tolkien’s Middle Earth... The Hyborian age was a huge, fleshed out world with different languages, cultures, and customs that one saw through the eyes of Conan in his many adventures, but there had to be others like him... You know how when you see or read something as a kid and go “Wow this is so cool!” only to later read/see it again later and wonder what the hell was so impressive about it? Not with Conan. For me, anyway, it’s better.
 - Keith C. Blackmore

I like Fantasy, but I read a wide variety of new and old writers, including C.S. Forrester, John LeCarre, John Steinbeck, Ellis Peters, and Robert E. Howard, to name a few.
 - Charles Hall

I loved Robert E. Howard’s Conan books when I was growing up...
- Sam Sykes

But what Howard had - maybe even more than Edgar Rice Burroughs, who created "Tarzan of the Apes" around the same time - was copiousness of invention. There's a twist on every page, a new idea every other story. Temples of forgotten cults deep in the jungle, reanimated sorcerers, naked beauties offering immortality - his imitators have made some of these clichés, but Howard pioneered the lost-world map and the clash of cultures. The clichés wouldn't have had the imitators if they weren't potent.
Howard died young but cast a long shadow. He did much to create a decisively American romantic tradition. Those vanished pulp magazines—Weird Tales, Unknown, even Magic Carpet Magazine—how they fed the imagination!
 - Tom Shippey

I read all the Conan books of Robert E Howard too. I loved those.
- Chris Priestley

I'm also a huge, huge fan of Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs.
 - Brian Keene

In more recent years I’ve been heavily impacted by the writing of Patrick O’Brian (the Master and Commander series), Dan Abnett (elevating media tie-in fiction and military prose to an art form), James Clavell (big, sprawling Asian epics) and the prose styles of Donald E. Westlake (Parker) and Robert E. Howard (Conan and Solomon Kane).  They all have taught me valuable lessons about how to properly tell a story and tell it effectively and in an exciting fashion.
 - Van Allen Plexico

Long before I ever focused on crime fiction, my tastes lay in other genres. The first writers that really got me weren’t crime writers. It was writers like Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, Richard Matheson, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith.
 - Chad Eagleton

Brutality, savagery, violence - Howard is a master of relaying these aspects of fantasy, obviously prominent in his Conan the Barbarian works set in Hyboria. Despite this mastery, Howard does not give us simple tales of hack and slash, which, to be honest, was what I was expecting the first time I began reading a Conan collection. Instead of simple brutality, savagery, and violence, I was treated to calculated brutality, cunning savagery, and orchestrated violence - all symptoms of character and plot complexity, other traits of Howard’s writing that lend cause to envy. Howard hammered away at the theme “one man can conquer all” but he showed us time and again that man used more than just a sword to accomplish this means.
 - Christopher Heath

I loved Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books and Robert E Howard’s Conan the Barbarian series.
 - Paul Collins

I love books. Really, it’s the escape that a well written book provides; that surreal ability to see and smell and hear and experience a world that is not my own is intoxicating. I lost myself in Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at an early age and never looked back... I like the storytelling of Robert E. Howard.
 - Matthew Gill

If you could compare your book to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your book is their cup of tea?
H. Graham: Hmm. Tough question. I'd probably make a reference to the short fantasy stories that used to appear in Dragon magazine (the American one, not the Japanese one), but it hasn't been in print for about five years and the online version doesn't seem to have short stories anymore. Definitely Robert Howard's Kull of Atlantis and Conan the Barbarian series, for those of us who were lucky enough to remember that era.
 - H. Graham Cull

... this being “low fantasy” did not prevent it from engaging in poetic, powerful language and grand philosophical themes. Although action-oriented in the manner of (though with much better craft than) TSR-fare, there is a tightly controlled correspondence between the words and actions of the characters.  Conan typically prevails because he is typically direct and straightforward; his battle prowess is as much a symptom of this transparency of character as it is his upbringing. Other characters weave byzantine plots only to dramatically fail when they learn that the realities the universe has created for the villains are no more stable than the “realities” they use to trap their victims. A sort of cosmic version of “getting caught in a lie.” There’s a lot of lush, powerful, rich, almost pungent imagery here, but beneath the beautiful writing is an ongoing discussion of Things That Matter.  And also interestingly (I’m using that word a lot) this comes forth all the clearer in the “weaker” Conan stories — those featuring little plot except an extra-dimensional monster and a naked damsel — because the Big Questions continue to get play even when the pulp clichès ride heavy.  So the lesson there, I suppose, is that I can depart from a “high fantasy” writing style without abandoning, or even mitigating, thematic depth.
 - Connor Coyne

Robert E. Howard, or REH as his fans call him, came out of rural Texas during the Depression, to become a premier writer of pulp adventure, poetry, weird horror, historical, and sports tales. Though his professional career spanned a little over a decade (from 1925 till his untimely death in 1936), he wrote by conservative estimate some three million words of material—a good bit of it is more readable today than what sits on bookstore shelves. Without a doubt, REH’s most famous creation is a barbarian adventurer who flourished in the time before recorded history, Conan of Cimmeria. If you’re only familiar with Conan through movies or comics, you’re missing out on a spectacularly well-drawn figure of Byronic proportions. At his best, he is part brooding anti-hero, part laughing rogue, and part cunning predator.
REH’s style of writing paired economy with passion. He was a visual writer. He could set a scene with as few words as Hemingway, but his passion lent it a savage and visceral life. Nor was his prose without a sense of beauty—though much of it was the primal beauty of the wild. I can read a passage from REH (and I prefer either his historical tales or those of Conan) and feel the doom of mankind pressing in upon me, but rather than be depressed by this, Howard’s writing imparts a sense of glory not unlike what is found among the Viking sagas: death is inescapable; it’s how we die that measures us for immortality. This is a sentiment I’ve tried long and hard to infuse into my own writing, with varying degrees of success.
 - Scott Oden

I’m attempting, like Robert E. Howard, to tap into a dimension beyond the material one we’re living in. Because that’s where Conan comes from–and he’s my kind of barbarian.
 - Steven Pressfield

Every adventure writer should spend some time studying the best of Robert E. Howard’s work. That man had an incredible narrative drive. And his prose is extremely vivid—he brings an entire scene to life with just a few phrases. He was so talented I could, and have, draft entire essays about his strengths as a writer, but I’ll just mention a few aspects that really impress me. For instance, I don’t know that anyone else has ever been capable of so clearly portraying the clash of entire armies as REH could, seamlessly moving his camera across the battle between knots of figures and important protagonists. When you write and edit all the time it’s hard not to turn off that “word architecture” part of your brain where you’re constantly analyzing the words. Howard’s one of the few authors whose work can still sweep me up so completely that I fall through the words and into the story. REH could craft lovely prose poetry when he wanted, but he knew when to sharpen focus and let the verbs do the heavy lifting. He was one of the best adventure writers we have, and I wish more fantasy writers would look deeper into his canon. Some of his lesser known stories are just as good, and even better, than the best of his Conan work. We’re fortunate that the recent Del Rey books have collected so much of it.
 - Howard Andrew Jones

I also think that fantasy fans should go back and read the classics: obviously Tolkien if you haven’t read him, but also works like Fritz Leiber’s classic Fahfrd and the Grey Mousers stories; the original Conan stories by Robert E. Howard and his other characters like Bran Mak Morn and Solomon Kane; Jack Vance, one of my all-time favourites, the marvellous The Dying Earth stories by Jack Vance.
 - George R. R. Martin

Robert E. Howard is one of the masters of weird fiction and yet is one who has been sadly neglected by the makers of anthologies and the memory of fantasy historians. What the reason for this can be has never been clear... it may be, we hope it is, pure oversight.
 - Donald A. Wollheim

If pressed to answer where my need for pace comes from, it’s probably due to the kind of books I loved to read as I was emerging as a writer. I loved the old so-called ‘Men’s Action books’ of the 1970s and early 1980s, typified by Mack Bolan, Remo Williams, Nick Carter and the like. I also loved the 1930s action adventure tales that are best remembered for Robert E Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian, Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan etc. All those tales were fast moving, slightly larger than life and were – above all – great fun to kick back and read. It was due to those books that I began writing in earnest, as I tried to emulate my literary heroes.  - Matt Hilton

I also, maybe more importantly, re-read some of my lifelong favorite writers of historical swashbuckling romance: Alexander Dumas, Rafael Sabatini, Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock (to whom the story is dedicated), George MacDonald Fraser. The tone of the writing, the style, the approach to the idea of heroic swordsmen and their personalities (of which I favor the ironic variety found in the last three authors named and perhaps in Dumas, as well), all that was in many ways more of a challenge than the details of period, which are just a matter ulitimately of reading and using the imagination.
 - Michael Chabon

Captain Blood, Rafael Sabatini
The Kull Stories, Robert E. Howard
The Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories, Fritz Leiber
Against The Day, Thomas Pynchon
The Brigadier Gerard stories, Arthur Conan Doyle
The Chinese Bandit, Stephen Becker
The Ice Schooner, Michael Moorcock
The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas
Flashman at the Charge, George MacDonald Fraser
The Jirel of Joiry stories, C.L. Moore
King Solomon's Mines, H. Rider Haggard
 - Michael Chabon's "Dashing Dozen"

Found the short story collection, PIGEONS FROM HELL by Robert E. Howard the creator of Conan the Barbarian when I was thirteen, or fourteen. It was the first dark fantasy and heroic fantasy I’d ever read. In that moment I knew not only did I want to be a writer, but this is what I wanted to write.
 - Laurell K. Hamilton

Howard is one of the key figures in the tradition of "sword and sorcery" fiction, and his violent heroes—most notably Conan the Barbarian—have continued their adventures in the care of other chroniclers.
In terms of popular taste all three of these Weird Tales writers were ahead of their time. Their pioneering endeavors appealed in the first instance to a small corps of admirers, whose enthusiasm kept the work alive in the margins of the marketplace until the general evolution of fantastic fiction accustomed a much wider range of readers to the vocabulary of ideas with which they worked. The communicative efficacy of their work had to wait until an audience appeared whose context of understanding could be tuned in to their idiosyncrasies. There are still readers and critics who cannot abide one, two, or all three of them and who stigmatize key features of their work as evidences of bad writing. For this reason, Howard is often written off as a hack producer of fast-moving blood-and-thunder narratives; Lovecraft is taken to task for his stilted prose and piled-up adjectives; Smith is criticized for his love of exotic words and his highly ornamented descriptions.
Such accusations tend to miss the point of the characteristics in question, each of which is a necessary corollary of the particular virtue and virtuosity of the writers work. The pace and violence of Howards work, and the adjectival awkwardness of Lovecrafts, are part and parcel of their distinctive moral and existential contexts. Critics out of sympathy with Howards and Lovecrafts different varieties of quasi-paranoid world-view can hardly be expected to become connoisseurs of their literary development, but it is a pity that this has sometimes prevented the critics from recognizing that what they are seeing is unusual method rather than literary incompetence.
 - Brian Stableford

Bob Howard had passion, he believed in what he was writing, and his best would barely contain the energy, the passion he branded upon each word. He was never good at just typing, churning out stories he didn’t care for and didn’t believe in. His best Conan stories show his belief in the character and his world, his weakest (like his try at the detective and ‘Spicy’ pulp markets) show Howard fumbling along an alien landscape, typing instead of writing. Still, even weak Howard had nuggets and Bob’s native storytelling behind it.
 - Tom Stewart

I adore Robert E. Howard and Conan (it’s amazing how often he comes up in job interviews)...
 - Rhianna Pratchett

I write both stories and poems. I usually write fantasy, but there’s some science fiction, humour and general fiction in there as well. Almost all my stories are very short. I’m much more influenced by old writers like Tolkien or Robert E Howard (the creator of Conan) than by currently popular fantasy writers.
 - James Hutchings

You hear a lot of sword-and -sorcery authors say there will never be another Conan. Robert E. Howard had some unique visions, and I’m dubious that anyone’s ever going to be able to properly translate them.
 - Brandon Sanderson

Anyone following my work has probably seen that I love shoe-horning in fantasy and pulp elements into my superhero books. Catman was inspired by Tarzan, the Secret Six went to Skartaris, Wonder Woman met Beowulf and Claw. To be blunt, I love that stuff. I love the earthy primal quality of it, I love the pulp mythos from people like Lovecraft and Burroughs, and of course, Robert E. Howard.
 - Gail Simone


Howard was my favorite author. I always like his stories the best.
- Margaret Brundage

In my early Conan reading, I so devoured the books that all the stories bled together. This gave me a dream-like world where the young Conan who fought giant apes in Stygian darkness strode side-by-side with the adult Conan as he raised the Aquilonian crown in his blood-stained hands.
- Michael Wm. Kaluta

I got pretty excited about Conan - I figured it was right up my alley. I could really pull out all the stops. I was a little fresh in the business so I didn't dare go too far. But there was something... Oh boy! The minute they mentioned it, images popped right into my head.
Although I have enjoyed illustrating the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs... I much prefer illustrating the tales of Robert E. Howard. They are much stronger in mood and narration than those of Burroughs and allow a wider range of artistic interpretations. As St. John is remembered for E.R.B. and Tarzan, I would like to be remembered for R.E.H. and Conan.
- Frank Frazetta

The best fantasist of all time Clark Ashton Smith, H. Ryder Haggard and A. Merritt, and Robert E. Howard... the best of the stylists, in other words, which I have fairly well memorized by now.
- Stephen Hickman

Howard was a great writer - it has been said before, a score of times. It bears repeating.
When I was a fighting man, the kettle drums they beat:
The people scattered gold dust before my horse’s feet:
Now I am a great King, the people hound my track
With poison in my wine cups and daggers at my back.

It’s all there - all the tawdry pomp of public acclaim, the empty prize of kingship, the burden of duty, the subtle treachery - the fear; in little more than a couplet! I have read lengthy novels that told it less well.
His words rang like brazen hammers on some anvil of the gods. Dark gods - and wayward.
One reads Howard distantly, as through a mist of time - fleeting glimpses, lightning sharp, are caught of marching men in grim armor, of battlements stormed by savage hordes, of whispered intrigues in tapestried candlelight. As from afar we hear the summons of the oliphant, the ring of steel on steel, the screams of the dying; too vast - too terrible - to grasp as reality, and, somehow, the more “real” for all of that! What emerges, sharp and clear, is the mood.
Which brings me to an aspect of Howard  - and of his work - that has, so far as I can recall, been curiously overlooked: his “feel” for tragedy, and for - what shall I call it - evanescence?
For my road runs out in thistles, and my dreams have turned to dust,
And my pinions fade and falter to the raven wings of rust.

He was aware of this quality of “things passing” - of time ravelling away - as was no other figure in the whole field of literature. It coloured all his work; his best prose is built around it, his poetry is redolent of it! Futility and the emptiness of men’s dreams - the feeling of things - of life - slipping through one’s fingers - unbidden, ineluctable - and wayward!
-  Roy G. Krenkel (introduction to the (1979) Ace paperback reprint of Donald M Grants edition of The Sowers of the Thunder (1973))

As a comic book reader, my introduction to the old pulp writers was Robert E. Howard.
 - Mike Mignola

It was difficult to get pulps in Spain. Recently, I can read things like The Shadow or Doc Savage from the internet. But since university, I've been reading a lot of noir novels -- Black Mask, Chandler, Hammett, all those fantasy/terror works by Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and H.P. Lovecraft.
 - Victor Santos


You go back to Robert E. Howard, there's a lot of heart there and a lot of mysticism and a lot of questing and yearning in that character... How do you make a smart Conan anything? You do what Dark Horse did with their series of comics. They went back to Robert E. Howard, and they have one of the smartest adaptations of Conan. And that's how you do it smart, it's been done.
 - Frank Darabont

It’s a very odd structure; I always call it Shakespeare meets Robert E. Howard. There’s a fine line. We’ve had scripts that go too Shakespearean and we don’t want to go all the way to “Thee” and “Thy” and “Thine” and “Forsooth.” You know, that’s a little bit too far, but I wanted to do something different that would give just that flavor of antiquity to elevate the language just a bit. And, of course, with the cursing it’s kind of like these two worlds crashing together.
 - Steven S. DeKnight


My relationship with John went way back to Big Wednesday. That's when we got to be friends but long before that I was a big Robert E. Howard fan. I've always been a big reader and I'd actually read all of the Conan stories and all the stuff he's done. So when the Conan project came along and it just got dropped into John's lap, I wen't oh man, are you kidding!
 - Gerry Lopez


My favorite of all time, just because of the way he mixes reality with the supernatural, is Robert E. Howard... Just about everything. Sports stories, Westerns...he was all over the board. His unedited works that are coming out now are just incredible. The Conan stuff is great, the King Kull stuff is pretty good stuff. Not as good as Conan, I believe. I love the Bran Mak Morn stuff, Solomon Kane...
 - Mark "The Shark" Shelton (Manilla Road)


Cherry picking fragments from my old paperbacks again over the last month, I am surprised how much of Howard seems relevant. The Conan tales picture a world of supposedly civilised nations fighting with superstitious ones, in battles for territory and resources. Red Nails, which I think may have been Howard’s final Conan tale, shows two warring and dwindling tribes hiding at opposite ends of a sunless and sealed necropolis, hell bent on each other’s destruction. As a metaphor for the modern human condition it’s up there with William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies and unlike Golding’s celebrated 1954 effort, is also enlivened by a gratuitously Sapphic girl-on-girl whipping scene. 
 - Comedian Stewart Lee

Robert E. Howard was not only creator of Conan, he was also the greatest of the sword and sorcery writers. His pre-historic tales of adventure, cunning, and melancholia play out against a backdrop of barbaric kings, monstrous cults, and horrors from outer space. Don’t just watch the movies. Read the stories and treat yourself to a sweat-drenched free-for-all in which everything’s up for grabs and all sandal-trod roads lead to inevitable ruin. Start with “Red Nails” (1936) or “Beyond the Black River” (1935).
 - Video Game Developers Venus Patrol

I only discovered Michael Moorcock, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert. E Howard and H.P. Lovecraft much later, but I'm now a huge fan of their writings as well...
 - RPG Writer Claus Bornich

Well, the name Road of Kings comes from a poem by [Conan the Barbarian creator] Robert E. Howard. When we first started working together, I gave the other two guys each a collection of Conan stories, and told them they were required reading.
 - Paul Siegel of Dancing Sorcerer, developers of RPG Road of Kings


  1. Wow. That's quite the roundup of positive quotes. Thanks!

  2. Made me sad to see David Gemmell's name in there. I'm a fantasy fan and yet it's hard for me to find an author I'll follow where ever he goes. And I miss David.

  3. Wow. That's quite the roundup of positive quotes. Thanks!

    Not at all, Paul: I think it's a good idea to have lots of them rounded up. Which reminds me, I'll have to add Tom Shippey's...

    Made me sad to see David Gemmell's name in there. I'm a fantasy fan and yet it's hard for me to find an author I'll follow where ever he goes. And I miss David.

    I know the feeling. Still, he left a helluva legacy.

  4. Like the heroes he wrote about, Howard was single-minded and determined in his approach to writing--you always get the feeling that he's deadly serious about his subject matter and his sympathies always lay with the barbarian avengers of his tales and legends.